By Ron VandenBoom
A short haired brown and white cat named Sweetie lounges lazily on a chair across from the nurses station as she watches the employees and residents go about their daily routines.
Occasionally she will pause, in what seems to be her only daily duty, to let a resident pet her head or scratch the underside of her neck and then it's back to the chair for another nap.
Sweetie is just one part of the family at Sweet Memorial Nursing Home in Chinook and that's the way Nancy Hansen, Administrator and financial director at the home, likes it.
"We have a great connection with the families of our residents," she said. "And we encourage that in the families."
That's just part of what Hansen feels is their strongest asset at the home a sense of family and a home-like atmosphere.
Hansen believes that many of the family members that come to the home to visit relatives look at all the residents as part of their family and part of the community's heritage.
It's a feeling that's becoming less common today as many of the smaller nursing homes are seeing a drop in the number of residents. Bigger facilities in bigger cities, closer to doctors and emergency facilities, could be siphoning away some of the residents, but it doesn't have to be.
"We want people in the Chinook area to know that they can stay in Chinook if they want and don't have to leave," Hansen said. "It's the decision of the resident where they go."
Sweet Home just celebrated the second year anniversary of the new addition that added 16 double rooms to the facility bringing their total capacity to 42 beds. There are currently 37 residents at the home.
The home offers an activities room, resident lounge, dining and bathing facilities and with a staff of 51, Sweet Home is the third largest employer in Blaine County.
Hansen said the focal point of their care is to get the residents to come out of their rooms and join with the rest of the community for activities. But cable TV hookups in every room are available for those who wish to retreat from social activities to watch their favorite show.
Shower and bath facilities are also a popular item at Sweet Home with a chair lift to assist residents in and out of the tub.
A physical therapy room is also being planned for the home and visits by local physician, Dr. Angeliki Kosmatopoulou and by Dr. Bruce Richardson, the facility's medical director, are frequent.
Hansen said the residents all like to get their hair done and at the Sweet Home hair care has been incorporated into the activities department where it now has a social element. A beautician will come occasionally to provide things like hair color or permanents.
Sweet Home also provides for the spiritual lives of its residents in the chapel. Local ministers will conduct regular church services and a Catholic service is held every Tuesday.
Meals are an important element to all the residents and more space in the dining hall was added with the addition of the new edition of the building.
Meals are prepared and a menu displayed daily under the direction of a qualified dietitian.
The concentration is on nutrition, Hansen said.
Picnics and barbecues are also a common summertime activity in the inner-courtyard area of the home.
Sweet Home also provides day care for local seniors. Seniors dropped off for the day or for the night, get all the services a regular resident might receive including meals and snacks. Baths have also become a popular item with the day care residents.
Always searching for improvements, Sweet Home just started a new shift schedule that will increase the number of shifts the staff works from the standard three to seven or eight.
The reason, Hansen said, are recent studies that point to something called "the sundown syndrome."
The syndrome refers to a time about 3 p.m. when one shift exits and another shift starts.
"The change and all the new faces has been shown to be upsetting to the residents," Hansen said.
Filtering in a gradual change in staff throughout the day helps maintain resident familiarity and better maintains continuity and the continuum of care.
Sweet home has been providing service to Blaine County since 1969 and continues to provide high quality, up-to-date care for area seniors.
Anyone seeking more information should call 406-357-2549.