Health & Medical Resources Guide
Herald Journal Health & Medical Resources Guide
published July 2012
Winsted’s Garden House is breaking tradition
By Linda Scherer, Staff writer
Stella, a black Lhasa-Poo, wearing a red ribbon on her head, makes her rounds at St. Mary’s Garden House in Winsted. For a small dog, she has a lot of area to cover and many people to see before she can rest.
She might visit the gentleman sitting in a garden swing reading, or possibly watch while someone weeds a vegetable garden close by. She could also walk through the dining room where several residents are playing bingo, or get some one-on-one attention from the woman curled up in a big chair in the living area watching her favorite television program on a big-screen TV.
There are so many family-like activities going on, it’s difficult to believe Stella’s visit is in a health care facility for memory loss.
St. Mary’s Garden House is the first of its kind in the state of Minnesota, according to Garden House Manager Tifani Jaunich, offering a new concept in health care for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia a home-like atmosphere, where they are able to feel independent, while living in a safe environment.
“I knew this would be really good,” Jaunich said of the Garden House, “but I never thought things would move as fast as they have.”
In less than a year’s time, 14 of the 16 suites at the Garden House have occupants and the residents have quickly adjusted to their new home and family.
They enjoy preparing meals together and each of them, on their own, have defined what their role is in the house, just like they would at their own home, according to Jaunich.
Several of the residents work nonstop in the garden, one of the residents likes to vacuum, and one of the residents enjoys doing most of the grocery shopping for the group.
Glenn Kuck of Glenn’s SuperValu delivers the groceries, but it’s Andy Simon (Garden House resident) who takes the cart(s) up and down the aisles at Glenn’s picking out groceries for the house.
“And we don’t have little shopping trips,” Jaunich said with a laugh. About one-third of the way through the store, Jaunich said, the shopping cart is full and needs to be replaced with an empty one.
The Garden House takes a little adjusting for the families of the residents who are more familiar with the old institutionalized-type care, but once they become accustomed to the innovative health care system, they definitely like it.
Judy Penas, whose mother, Irene Cantin, recently transferred to the Garden House, said she has seen her mother’s health improve since she arrived.
“It’s more personal here and she gets to go in the kitchen and do as much as she can,” Penas said. “The staff eats with them and all of the food is homemade, compared to institutional food.”
“The rooms are nice and big and they have private baths. It makes visiting easier, too,” Penas said. “For mother’s 94th birthday, my three daughters and great-grandchildren had a homemade pizza party for everyone and we just had a ball.”
Jaunich, herself, has witnessed the change in the residents soon after they move in to the Garden House. She sees them socialize instead of isolating themselves in their own room.
Their eating habits also improve.
“They are eating healthy, and they can help themselves to what they want,” Jaunich said. “And when they participate in baking it, they are more likely to eat it.”
Jaunich has seen health improvements in the extreme. There are residents who have been on hospice and when they moved to the Garden House their health did a complete turnaround. Jaunich credits the homelike environment which, she believes, gives the residents self-worth.
There are regular outings, which the residents enjoy, and the Garden House staff and its residents plan monthly parties. Everybody decides what the entertainment will be, and family members are sent invitations.
“We do what we call a monthly family fun event. Two weeks ago, we set up a movie theater and watched “Grumpy Old Men.” We had a big popcorn stand, and cake and ice cream. All the family members socialize very well together,” Jaunich said.
Although the Garden House’s concept in health care is unique to Minnesota, St. Mary’s management team and the Benedictine Health System (BHS) have studied similar health care systems outside of the state. Some of the things done at the Garden House are similar to the models studied, and other ideas have been modified.
“We kind of use those models as an example,” Jaunich said. “We have found out what works best as we go along, and it’s working. The proof is in the pudding.”
All different levels of care are provided at the Garden House. “We do specialize in memory care,” Jaunich said. “Everybody ages differently and has different cognitive levels so the way the house is designed is, anyone can come and be as independent as they need to be,” Jaunich said. “We do have ceiling tracks and lifts for people because the care level can change on a daily basis. This is their home and they should not have to leave unless they want to.”
To help with residents’ memory loss, the staff uses constant reminders. They have little cards that are laminated with their new address on them and their phone numbers, which they can carry in their pockets. Outside of their room, everyone has a memory box which helps them identify where their suite is. It usually has a photo of themselves and family that they can recognize.
But there are still questions that the staff gets asked many times a day, Jaunich said.
“Is this Minnesota? Which direction are we facing? What direction are we heading? Is this Winsted? and How far away is my daughter?” are some of the most common questions asked, Jaunich said.
A registered nurse (RN) is at the Garden House two days a week. She makes rounds from resident to resident. A 24-hour nursing staff is available from the care center.
“We like using an RN from St. Mary’s so the continuity of care is the same, and especially with memory care. It’s hard to build those relationships and much easier to have one person who is in charge,” Jaunich said.
There is also a 24-hour wake staff called “care partners” who do all of the nursing tasks during the week, as well as day-to-day living assistance, which includes helping residents with medication, getting dressed or showering, cooking, or cleaning.
St. Mary’s Administrator/CEO Christina Gamaldi couldn’t be more pleased with the memory care offered at the Garden House.
“I am excited to see how well the Garden House has fit into our community and I am happy and honored we have the opportunity to serve the elders that live there,” Gamaldi said.
“Many times it’s not safe for memory care clients to remain at home, but they are not ready to live in a nursing home. Prior to the Garden House, there weren’t any options other than moving to the nursing home. The Garden House provides an option that costs less for daily living and provides an environment that focuses on life like it would be at home.”
Garden House builders received prestigious awards
Custom builder Nor-Son, who designed and built the Garden House, was recently honored by the Minnesota Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) with a prestigious Pyramid Award for its outstanding achievement and quality workmanship in building St. Mary’s Garden House.
Nor-Son utilized its residential and health care expertise to design and build a 13,000-square-foot memory care house working closely with the Living Services Foundation and the Benedictine Health System.
The $3.2 million Garden House was designed like a duplex, with separate entrances from a main foyer. A dividing door inside the facility is kept open much of the time, with both sides enjoying common activities and events.
There are eight suites on each side with private baths and room temperature controls. Also on each side, is living, dining, and family space surrounding a residential-style kitchen.
A secured garden area has comfortable furniture so residents can enjoy the outdoors. There are raised garden boxes for ease in gardening, and a cemented area which makes it easy to get in and out with walkers and wheelchairs.
The outside of the building was designed to have a residential look, with windows to let a lot of sunshine and natural light in. According to the builders, natural light is healing and good for people with memory loss conditions, and just as good for people in general.