The Piatt County Nursing Home has filled three key positions in the first quarter of 2018, ones that Executive Director Scott Porter says is part of the "heavy lifting" that will allow the facility to achieve goals he set out after being named to his position in late 2018.
"As an administrator you depend on your department heads to guide their individual departments not just in meeting the state’s regulations but in developing the culture of the facility," he said.
"Developing those programs that will ultimately improve the level of care of our residents and improve their daily lives. Each of the new staff members have vast experience and knowledge to share with everyone in the facility," added Porter.
With the hirings of Admissions and Marketing Director Lisa Buehnerkemper, Dietary Director Rich Rogers and Nursing Director Andrea Frazelle, Porter said some of the heavy lifting is done for now.
"Now we can do the hard work of developing programs and policies that will make Piatt County Nursing Home the premiere provider of geriatric care in the area. This process may take up to a year, but I now feel with these key positions filled we can turn our attention to changing the culture, create and implement policies that will ensure consistency in care, and develop our staff to ensure this is possible," said Porter.
Buehnerkemper has taken care of senior citizens ever since earning her degree from Western Illinois University in 1999.
Actually, it started before that.
"I started volunteering in middle school. There was a nursing home in town (in Elk Grove Village) and we would go," said the Piatt County Nursing Home’s admissions and marketing director, a position created in January of this year.
It’s hard for her to explain it, but has just "always had a special connection with seniors."
It has shown in her vocational life, which has included activities duties at nursing homes in Bloomingdale and Savoy, in addition to serving as director of dementia care services at Carle Arbours. She was also a part-time case worker for Piatt County Services for Seniors just prior to starting at the nursing home.
"I just have so much respect for the elderly, and I know that for caregivers and the family it’s a hard time to take care of their loved ones, and be able to provide a place for them to age at a place to make sure they are getting the care they deserve and need is just so important," said Buehnerkemper, who realizes who intimidating the process can be.
"There’s so much information coming at you, so many papers to sign, and so many people asking questions. I just want to try to be that person that let them know everything is going to be O.K," she added.
One task the administration is taking on is a shorter form that can be filled out at the start of the admissions process, with additional information gathered later to give families a break in the paperwork stream.
With more people being admitted to the nursing home in recent months, the "admissions" portion of her job title has taken center stage. As that stabilizes, Buehnerkemper is anxious to get to the "marketing" portion.
She plans to work with Faith in Action’s Julie Glawe and Maple Point’s Kara Olson "to get out and be more involved in the community, to be a presence in the community, to partner with Kirby and to partner with business expos, and to recruit staff."
She said that will include having meet and greets and coffee events throughout Piatt County.
After a two-decade stint setting up die-making facilities across the world in the technology and automotive industry, Rogers was glad to get back into the food service industry, something he remembers from his youth.
"I’ve been in food service since I was 12 years old, washing dishes for a buck fifty and hour," said the Chicago native who has been at the Piatt County facility for about two months.
He served as a dining/kitchen manager at Hendrick House in Champaign for seven years, then was at Monticello’s Villas of Holly Brook in a similar capacity for a year prior to landing at the nursing home.
Always an organized individual, the first thing he did was clean up the dry storage room.
"I’m very OCD. A place for everything, everything in its place, and I went back there and we teared up the entire dry storage room and I organized everything back there."
He said it helped pave the way for the serving of more fresh food.
"Part of my goal in cleaning the store room and getting rid of can racks is it gives us more real estate. More real estate means I can move a prep table in there and I can break down fresh chicken away from where they are cooking and keep it totally separate," stated Rogers.
"The residents here, that’s what they need - fresh. They don’t need processed," added the dietary director, who lives in Mahomet.
The Chicago Bogan High School graduate just enjoys cooking. And doesn’t mind showing off, serving a homemade ciche and his "grandmother’s homemade cheesecake with Jack Daniels drizzle" at recent county board nursing home committee meetings.
Always a bit of a foodie, he used his world travels while in manufacturing to learn to cook exotic items, mostly from South Asia. But if cooking for fun, Rogers prefers seafood and cajun cuisine.
"You know, stick-to-your-ribs food," he added.
Rogers is in charge of a staff of about 15 food service employees at the nursing home.
Frazelle has worked in nursing for 23 years, and circumstances keep bringing her back to the Piatt County Nursing Home.
"I have always loved this home. I was an aide here 35 years ago," she said of her first stint at Piatt County at the age of 22.
When she was director of nursing three years ago, she suffered a broken arm and leg in a fall and left when faced with a seven-month rehab. Over the past year she helped take care of her newborn grandson while also working as a contract nurse.
That generated 20-hour days, and she knew something had to give.
"Basically I needed a change from the 20-hour days. Seriously, I prayed about it and doors opened and that’s what happened," said Frazelle, a Shelbyville native who has lived in Decatur for 30 years.
After the previous director of nursing stepped down, Frazelle was approached and jumped at returning once again, starting on Jan. 31.
"I love it. I do. This home is small town, a lot of community involvement, but when you walk in this door compared to other nursing homes I have worked at over my career (7), you are always greeted by somebody. You don’t walk around looking for somebody. You’re greeted by someone, most of the time by name, and when you walk in you feel welcome; and I think that’s what makes this home so good," added Frazelle. "You’re not just another face, another name."
Why did she choose nursing as her profession?
"I’ve never felt that we, as a country have taken very good care of our veterans and our elderly, so I picked a group and thought I would dedicate my life to it," she stated.
Her goals are to fill out her nursing staff and cross train so there are backups at all positions.