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PioneerCare celebrates 90 years

Fergus Falls senior care provider offers a spectrum of care

PioneerCare is celebrating!

It was 90 years ago that the organization opened its doors in Fergus Falls offering long-term care for older adults. But a lot has changed in those nine decades.

The new PioneerCare Center has several “neighborhoods” with an open concept throughout. Each neighborhood has a dining area and the rooms are easy to access. Contributed photo

“When you consider the expectations of elder care from the 1950s and 1960s, it’s really quite different from what people want today,” said Steve Guttormson, PioneerCare’s marketing and development director.

While PioneerCare Center offers the short- and long-term care PioneerCare is known for, there are more services available to meet the changing needs of older adults and those living with chronic or life-changing conditions.

PioneerLink provides the technologies and services to assist people to live independently at home and on the go. Pioneer Pointe is senior living apartments with amenities, and Pioneer Cottages offers care and support for those with memory loss.

“Really, PioneerCare offers a spectrum of care,” Guttormson said.

At the forefront is PioneerCare’s tradition of support. It started in that first structure, a large brick building that, like many care centers of its time, resembled a hospital setting, with long hallways and nurses in white. Over time, the building underwent changes, as more beds and amenities were added. But, as the building aged, it was apparent that a new structure would be more efficient and cost effective.

Rich and Bonnie Straight miss living and working in Lithuania, but they enjoy their new home at PioneerCare Center’s Deerwood neighborhood in Fergus Falls. Photo by Carol Stender

A new structure, PioneerCare Center, was constructed with the changing care needs and services in mind. The focus is on the “neighborhood” or household. The open design of the dining and meeting area of each neighborhood is appealing and welcoming. Each neighborhood has a dining area, and the rooms are easy to access.

Rich and Bonnie Straight have called the Center’s Deerwood neighborhood home for almost two years.

They’d lived and worked in Lithuania until Bonnie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2008. After their return to Bonnie’s hometown of Fergus Falls, Richard experienced nerve issues in his legs and arthritis in his back. His mobility became limited. As they assessed their care needs, they chose PioneerCare Center.

The couple enjoys the homey atmosphere and friendly, caring staff.

“I like meeting people,” said Rich. “It’s great to gather and visit with one another.”

They live in the Deerwood neighborhood and have decorated their room with the pictures and memorabilia collected throughout their 52-year marriage. Many of the items are from Lithuania.

Bonnie has a craft table, where she creates dried flower items and enjoys her new hobby – painting. The couple’s computer is nearby, powered by wireless Internet access. There’s also a flat screen TV with free cable access.

Residents and guests share some coffee and good conversation in one of the common areas at PioneerCare. Contributed photo

Registered nurse clinical coordinators oversee each individual’s care, and direct care staff provide around-the-clock assistance. Staff and social workers help with the decision processes and coordination of admissions, care and discharge and help individuals to understand Medicare benefits and insurance.

PioneerCare is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and welcomes and serves people of all faiths and beliefs. A chaplain offers spiritual care and support as well as weekly worship services.

Besides bottomless coffee and scratch-made snacks, the meals are chef-designed.

An indoor garden court and waterfall on the main floor is a peaceful spot for visiting, and outdoor patio areas are easy to access and inviting.

The short-stay wing provides the care and respite needed for recovery from illness or surgery.

Pioneer Cottages provide specialized care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss. Contributed photo

Near the Center are the Pioneer Cottages. The building is secured and has a secured outdoor area. The 24-hour specially trained staff provide for the daily personal care of those experiencing memory loss, including aid with bathing, dressing, toileting and mobility. The common areas are spacious and welcoming, and dining is done family style. And there are specialized activities and programming for residents.

Breckenridge also has Pioneer Cottages care available.

A few blocks from the Fergus Falls site is Pioneer Pointe offering senior apartment living with a full range of services that can be tailored for individual lifestyles. There are 44 apartments with each featuring spacious bedrooms in one- and two-bedroom options. The living areas have bay window views of a well-established residential neighborhood.

Pioneer Pointe has spacious, well-designed apartment homes which are complemented by features and supportive services that tenants can add and customize as needed. Contributed photo

Heated parking, beauty and barber services and personal laundry services are among the amenities offered. Residents can choose from chef-designed meal options, catered living home care services, and they can utilize a guest room for visitors.

Pioneer Pointe has a library area, walkout garden, recreational and wellness activities and weekly worship opportunities.

“They have plenty of fun there,” said Guttormson. There are special events like steak frys and a weekly happy hour.

The original PioneerCare building, which stood across the street, was razed earlier this year. Losing the structure, with its rich history, was difficult and emotional, Guttormson said.

“It was hard to lose that physical sign of the past, but, when you talk to the employees, they don’t talk about how they enjoyed the fireplace. They talk about the experiences they had within the building. They talk about the people.”

The changes in service and care offerings is exciting, he said.

“We think about where we have come,” he said. “We have really looked back, and I think we have done a good job of honoring and respecting that past and what it did for Pioneer. Now we are looking at the next 90 years.”

For more information, check out the website at or call 218-998-1500.

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