St. Williams Living Center, which has served the Parkers Parkers area since 1963, was recently rated as a 5-Star facility by Medicare.gov, a government agency that ranks and compares all senior living facilities in the nation.  That’s big news… but that isn’t the only big news at St. Williams. On May 20, a large renovation and expansion project was completed that has improved and expanded some of its facilities and services.

The Outpatient Therapy Clinic tripled in size as part of the expansion project at St. Williams Living Center in Parkers Praire. The clinic, which now has its own entrance, serves clients of all ages for their physical, occupational and speech therapy needs. The expansion project also included adding 14 private rooms to its skilled nursing facility, among other improvements. Photo by Jim Palmer

“We added 14 private resident rooms to our skilled nursing facility, which now has 53 beds,” said Tim Kelly, administrator at St. Williams. “Each resident room now has its own bathroom and shower. Before, we had a lot of double rooms.”

Having a private room adds to the quality of life for the residents, said Kelly.

“In some instances, three or four people were sharing a bathroom,” he said. “Now, most residents don’t have to share a bathroom. By having private rooms and own private bathroom it makes it more comfortable for the residents.”

“The private rooms are great for both the residents and their families who visit,” said Autumn Deuel, CNA/TMA, who has served a variety of roles at St. Williams for the last 14 years. “There is room enough for everyone now.”

Another noticeable improvement was made to the dining area.

“We now have two dining areas,” said Kelly. “This has allowed the residents to eat in an area that is quieter and more homelike. Instead of having 53 residents eating in one room, we now have about 16 in the dining rooms. When you have a big dining room filled with people it is very noisy and chaotic, which distracts people.”
Tiny Garlock, a resident at St. Williams, has seen a big difference during dinner time.

“It is a lot quieter,” he said. “The older you get, the quieter you like it, so that has been a really nice improvement.” Kelly added that the food in the new dining room is now served in front of residents instead of coming in on a tray from the kitchen.

“This allows residents to smell and see the food as it is plated which helps stimulate the appetite,” said Kelly.

Other changes include a new nursing station, new bathing room/spa room and a new and expanded therapy area.

“A big component of the addition was definitely the therapy space,” said Kelly. “We have always done therapy, but we didn’t always have the facility to do the outpatient side because of space. It is now three times larger than it was. We have a new entrance on the north side of the building that is designated for therapy. When you come in, you feel like you are coming into a therapy clinic and the nursing home is completely separate. And it is for all aged patients. Besides adults and seniors, we have been able to work with children as young as two years old, teenagers… any age.”

The new therapy clinic also includes an occupational therapy area with a full kitchen so clients can work on basic cooking skills as well as a bathroom with bathtub so residents can work on things like getting in and out of a tub when they return home.

Resident Gladys Ruhge shares a hug with nursing assistants, Bonni Thompson (left) and Karis South (right) at St. Williams Living Center in Parkers Prairie. Photo by Jim Palmer

Planning for the expansion project started about five years ago. They assessed the needs of the community, looked at needed upgrades (heating, cooling, roof, etc) and did a market study on what the future holds for services needed in the Parkers Prairie area. They also administered several surveys to find out what the residents wanted, what the employees thought was important and what the community wanted. All that information was used during the planning process and many elements were added as a result of those surveys and studies.

“To give you an example, through the surveys from residents and staff, we learned that there was a need to have more food and beverages available to residents after hours,” said Kelly. “We put in a little coffee shop and now have an area with food after hours.”

The changes to the skilled nursing facility has made an immediate impact. Kelly reported that nearly all of the beds have been filled the last few months, which was not a common occurrence in the years prior to the expansion project. And since opening in May the new and improve therapy clinic has seen a “dramatic increase” in the number of clients, according to Kelly.

The new space has enhanced some of the services and opportunities offered at St. Williams, including a fun activities schedule.

“Some of most popular activities include live music, which we offer multiple times a week, Bingo, and happy hour,” said Kelly. “Every Monday we have happy hour at 2:30 p.m. so residents can have a beer or a glass of wine.”

St. Williams’ campus continues to expand and evolve to keep up with the needs of the community and the state and national trends. These trends include the desire for seniors to remain in their homes as long as they are able.

“Even in the seven years that I have served here, we have seen the length of stay of residents dramatically change,” said Kelly. “We used to have a lot of residents stay for 5-7 years. Now we have a lot of residents who stay for far shorter periods or time.”

Residents Tiny Garlock (left) and Gene Bakke (right) assembled a puzzle at St. Williams Living Center. The two have put more than 30 puzzles together. Photo by Jim Palmer

St. Williams has a strong mental health program, which was first implemented in the 1980s. The program, now headed by Claudia Liljegren, clinical psychotherapist, includes a foster care program and community support program that serves eastern Otter Tail county. The therapy is designed to help reduce the mental health symptoms so individuals can work through their daily life activities more effectively. Liljegren has an office in the nursing home and an office in Alexandria.  Mental health professionals also go to homes and work with clients on various skills as part of the program. Kelly said St. Williams has greatly benefited from the services provided by its mental health program.

Those dealing with mental health issues can also take advantage of St. Williams’ Adult Foster Care Program. They currently have three homes in Parkers Prairie and each home houses four residents.

St. Williams has a big perks for veterans in the form of a contract with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“Veterans who have had a high enough service connectness and the VA will pay for their stay. Not many facilities near here that have this, so it is a big plus for us.

St. Williams has a partnership with Douglas County Hospice and Knute Nelson to provide hospice services to its clients. And under the hospice part of the veteran’s contract, regardless of amount of service, a veteran can come to the nursing home and the VA will pay for their stay, said Kelly.

St. Williams Living Center is a comfortable place to live and its board and staff are always looking for new ways to make its residents and its employees feel comfortable. It is part of the reason why it received the 5-Star rating from Medicare.gov., said Kelly.

“When you need help, you couldn’t ask for a better place than right here,” said Garlock.

Kelly gives special credit to its employees for the 5-Star rating.

“We have been fortunate to have a really good staff,” he said. “Like other nursing homes, we are always looking for good people, but I think we have been very fortunate to have a great core of long-term staff, which has helped us keep our quality ratings up. Our staffing levels are above both the state and national averages and I think that attracts some employees. I think it is nice to come to work knowing there will be enough staff each day. By having our staffing levels above average levels helps us obtain our high levels.”

St. Williams Living Center is a non-profit organization, which Kelly says makes his job “easier.”

Interior shot in one area of the new and improved St. Williams Living Center. Contributed photo

“It is not all about profit,” he said. “It is all about caring for our residents in the community. We are here to serve the community.”

Kelly has been very thankful for the support received by the community during the years of planning, construction and transition into the new space at St. Williams.

“The community has been fully supportive of this project, including the city council,” he said. “The city was very supportive to see growth in Parkers Prairie. We have a great community.”

What’s next for St. Williams? Kelly said the board of directors are currently exploring and planning for the addition of new senior housing units as early as 2020.

To learn more about St. Williams Living Center and its services, or to schedule a tour, call 218-338-4671. St. Williams is located at 212 West Soo Street, in Parkers Prairie.

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