Story by S.L. Hansen
DAVID CITY (SNR) - On Sunday, Sept. 14, St. Joseph’s Villa in David City will host an open house on the occasion of the skilled nursing care facility’s 75th anniversary.
The festivities will last from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., beginning with Mass celebrated by Emeritus Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz in the Saint Joseph’s Villa Chapel.
The reception that follows will include music by Paul Siebert, polkas, face painting by Ima the Clown, and a bouncy house for children. Refreshments will be served as well. All are welcome to attend.
Saint Joseph’s Villa is a not-for-profit, licensed care center. It was the first Catholic home for the aged in the Diocese of Lincoln, opened in 1939 by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, who still serve on the board and staff.
“Their vision was so excellent,” said Ruth Heule, R.N., director of nursing. “When we sign a job description here, it says, ‘You’re not just taking a job.’”
In fostering that vision these 75 years later, Nurse Heule and her assistant, Deb Meyer, considered recent research regarding nursing home care to create a new concept for St. Joseph Villa.
“The research shows that when a person enters a nursing home, they feel devalued, depersonalized and depressed… and that’s how the nursing staff feels as well,” Nurse Heule explained. “The key is, reverse the depression, reverse that feeling of being devalued.”
To this end, St. Joseph’s Villa recently adopted a “neighborhood” concept, in which the residents and staff are encouraged to interact on a personal level, rather than the traditional patient/medical professional model.
“When you get personally involved with somebody, it changes how you take care of them,” reasoned Nurse Heule.
The general idea is to move beyond being a nursing home that treats various ailments to become a functional family that puts the residents – not their diagnoses – first.
Heule believes this is what the Adorers of the Blood of Christ Sisters had in mind all along when they started St. Joseph’s Villa out of a converted private home in 1939.
“They had a vision for it, and the neighborhood concept just kind of goes along with it,” she said. She recently earned another bachelor’s degree – this time in theology – to help her guide her team in this unique way of caring for patients.
“We don’t dismiss the diagnosis,” Nurse Heule explained. “We want to know the person on a personal basis, and that’s what drives our care plan… It treats the whole being, body, soul and spirit.”
Saint Joseph’s Villa has always operated at or near capacity, from the first 14-bed configuration 75 years ago, through a building campaign in the mid-1960s and various additions in the ensuing decades.
Today, Saint Joseph’s Villa is a fully Medicare/Medicaid certified facility with 58 beds. Residents are either recovering from an illness or injury before they return to their own homes or have chronic conditions that require long-term care.
Using the new neighborhood concept, St. Joseph’s Villa is divided into three distinct groups named after three different saints: St. Maria, St. Francis and St. Theresa.
The neighborhood known as St. Theresa’s Garden is David City’s only residence for people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. It is a safe, home-like environment where residents – and their loved ones – are treated with respect and charity.
Nurse Heule said that the staff is currently completing extra training so that every single team member is certified to care for people with dementia.
“Statistics show that one in five nursing home residents have some diagnosis of dementia,” she explained. “If everybody on the staff is trained in how to deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia, the residents can stay longer in their neighborhoods.”
Each of the neighborhoods within St. Joseph’s Villa has its own feeling of community with dedicated staff members. The residents and staff together determine how their neighborhood functions and interacts. This changes over time, of course, as new residents come in or staff changes.
Annexed to St. Joseph’s Villa is an assisted living complex called St. Joseph’s Court. The Court serves seniors who want help with a few daily activities, such as housekeeping and meal preparation, but can live independently for the most part.
Together, St. Joseph’s Villa and Court can be the ideal living arrangement for an elderly couple when one needs the more comprehensive care of the Villa, but the other can still live independently at the Court. With the buildings connected, the couple can easily interact throughout the day, every day, even when the weather is bad.
“A family can feel that when they bring their loved one here, we have their best interest at heart,” said Nurse Heule.
She indicated that the staff is conscious of their great privilege in caring for people who are nearing the end of their lives.
“The majority of our residents stay here and this is the last place they see before they enter eternal life,” she said “We want them to have the best experience possible.”
All are welcome to the 75th anniversary celebration at St. Joseph’s Villa. For more information about the Villa and St. Joseph’s Court, visit www.saintjosephsvilla.org or call 402-367-3045.