For 50 years, Stewartville Care Center, a 401(c)(3), has been assisting and housing vulnerable seniors. Until last year, the Care Center had assisted living facilities, where nurses could administer medications to residents. Due to increasing regulations and decreasing staff, the Center has “right-sized” for Stewartville, says Gene Gustason, Administrator at the 58-bed Care Center for the last 25 years.
Gustason says nursing homes are only about 85% full across the State, including in Olmsted County. 30% of the Stewartville Care Center’s residents used to come from Rochester, he says, but senior care options have expanded, and many of them choose assisted living facilities, in part because nursing homes have a negative connotation that people fear.
The majority of individuals who go to the Stewartville Care Center come from hospitals and assisted living facilities and are “short-term, high-acuity”, and though the typical stay at the Center is only 180 days, Gustason says, “This is their home, and we treat them like it is their home.”
He manages the seven departments, six supervisors, and 100 total employees on staff, where a typical day consists of meetings; reviewing routines, policies, and procedures; analyzing potentials for disasters; “counting pennies” and planning next month; and making sure the facility complies with regulations. Ever-changing government policies, more burdensome laws and regulations, and extensive data that needs to be input and submitted by employees are challenges, says Gustason.
On any given day, for instance, two or three incidents occur, such as slips and falls, with mandatory, timely and time-consuming reports and investigations to follow.
Insurance companies “get complicated” too, Gustason says. Some people do not understand that, “You don’t necessarily qualify for Medicare just because you’re going to the nursing home. You have to be in qualifying situations, just like with any other insurance.”
With the high expense of assisted living, Gustason says it is disconcerting that 80 million baby boomers are coming down the turnpike when 20-25% of people will need some form of long-term care, yet most will not be able to afford it. In addition, with stringent State regulations popping up in the last few years, senior care facilities are struggling.
Much of Gustason’s work and that of his seven-member volunteer Board consists of solving problems, which he likes to do, in addition to administering building-upgrade projects and helping and interacting with residents and their families.
“I like to have discussions with older people; they have a lot of knowledge to share, and they’re a lot of fun,” Gustason says. The Center hosts activities and programming for residents, including music, family picnics, games, Happy Hour, and fishing. The Family Picnic is usually a memorable experience, Gustason says, where around 250-300 people (residents and their families) dine and congregate under a tent in the parking lot.
The Center also partners with the Lions Clubs for May Day and Oktoberfest and provides 12-15 meals daily through its Meals on Wheels program, year-round in Stewartville.
Thank you, Stewartville Care Center, for serving the community of Stewartville!
By: Abby Wright