By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, DARWIN, MN Founder Judy Berry of the Lakeview Ranch in Darwin and Dassel, was within weeks of losing the dementia care facilities she so strongly believed in.
Then, as if by divine intervention, a philanthropic donor came to the rescue, ensuring not only the future of Lakeview Ranch, but that Berry’s model of care would live on.
The story began one year ago, when Berry was financially struggling with the Lakeview Ranch and was in danger of losing the health care facility she built 15 years prior.
Berry noted that with foundation donations down and the state of economy, it became hard for her to make ends meet and maintain the level of care she was committed to.
“It’s very staff-intensive,” Berry said of the population of people Lakeview Ranch specializes in.
Typically, people with dementia have a history of aggressive behavior, because they have emotional needs that aren’t being met elsewhere, Berry explained.
By having a larger staff-to-patient ratio, the Lakeview Ranch is able to meet the emotional needs of patients without the use of psychotropic drugs and hospitalization, according to Berry.
Oftentimes, people with dementia act out because they are scared, angry, or are being treated as if they are invisible, Berry said. Therefore, they create a need to be seen.
Instead, the staff at Lakeview Ranch “are extensively trained to meet the emotional needs of the people, not just the physical needs,” Berry said. This takes interaction, paying close attention to the person, and validating their needs, she added.
Berry found this to be true through her own experience with her mother, who suffered from dementia.
Seeing the flaws in the care her mother received in traditional care facilities, motivated her to make it her mission to create a better quality of life for those living with the debilitating disease.
Though there are care facilities out there that can provide the same level of care as the Lakeview Ranch, Berry said, they typically aren’t available for those on medical assistance, as was the case with her mother, who was on Medicaid.
Berry believes that the elderly should be given the dignity and level of care they deserve, regardless of their wealth.
Because she wouldn’t turn people away due to their income level, the Ranch became a financial burden for Berry. Medical assistance only pays up to one-third of the cost of operation, Berry noted. She also recognized that she didn’t have the financial background typically needed to run a successful business.
When Berry was within just weeks of losing everything, she received a call from Bob Pohlad of the Pohlad Family Foundation, based in Minneapolis. She had met Pohlad at an event months prior and had invited him to come out to the facility, though his schedule hadn’t allowed for it until then.
Pohlad asked Berry if he could come out and tour the facility the following day, and she welcomed his visit.
He spent a half a day there having lunch with residents, visiting with staff, and seeing how the care facility worked overall.
Wondering how he could help, Berry told him it was simply too late and that little could be done at that point to save the operation.
He stopped her and told her about a request his mother, Eloise, had made him.
Pohlad’s mother asked Bob and his brothers, Bill and Jim, to make sure the family’s money goes to help real people in need, particularly the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with dementia.
Bob told Berry that she was actually giving him an opportunity to keep a promise to his mother, and that “It’s never too late.”
At that point, he committed to helping her save Lakeview Ranch and also working to replicate the model of care in the medical field as a whole.
The rescue plan
“[Bob] loved the way people were being taken care of [at Lakeview Ranch],” said Marina Munoz Lyon, vice president of the Pohlad Family Foundation, adding that it was important that its model of care continued.
“We’re not health care experts, but we believe there is something special there,” she said.
The Pohlad Foundation reached out to the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Agency, which provides health and hospice services in the state, to assist Berry in securing a financially-stable future for the Ranch without reducing the quality of care.
Though Berry is still the owner, she is no longer the administrator, but will continue as a consultant to the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Agency. Instead, the agency’s chief operations officer, Pam Schaid, is now the acting administrator for Lakeview Ranch, Berry noted.
The Pohlad Family Foundation also wants to “bring more attention from the medical community, on the model of care,” used in dementia care, said Munoz Lyon.
“We know it reduces hospitalization, pharmacy costs, and improves quality of life,” she said, adding that it has the potential to reduce health care costs.
In addition, the Pohlad Foundation offered to match up to $25,000 in donations made during the Dementia Care Foundation’s 2013 fundraiser and dinner gala last month.
Through donations and silent auction, the foundation raised $27,000, which is triple what the gala raises on average.
“It’s been a dream,” Berry commented of the generosity she has received through the Pohlad Foundation.