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Home away from home: St. Luke's Home transitions to a neighborhood model, open house planned

St. Luke’s Administrator/CEO Dennis Goebel gives a tour of the home, including the game room, on Nov. 19.

 By Linda Sailer

Residents of the new St. Luke’s Home receive the same quality care as before construction began, but it’s now in a homelike setting.

They might play cards in the game room, retreat to the TV room or get a snack from the kitchen before going to bed.

“The idea was to make it similar to what it’s like to live in your own home,” administrator/CEO Dennis Goebel said during a tour. “There’s a kitchen in every unit. They have a refrigerator and can throw popcorn into the microwave.”

After four years of construction and renovations, it’s time to celebrate. Phase 1 was completed in May 2010 and Phase 2 was finished in May. The landscaping and the parking lot also are done.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony is Friday with the Chamber Ambassadors and special guests in attendance. The program starts at 12:30 p.m. The open house is from 2-4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8, when refreshments will be served and musical entertainment will fill the hallways.

 “It’s an opportunity for the community to get a really good look at the environment of the new St. Luke’s,” foundation director Yvonne Kroll said. “It’s a comfortable and homey atmosphere where residents feel like it’s their home.”

Sponsoring churches

St. Luke’s Home is a non-for-profit charitable corporation, sponsored by the 14 area congregations of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The construction was financed through a USDA loan and an ongoing capital campaign.

Kroll gave credit to the previous administrator/CEO Karen Boulden and board for putting the financing in place.

“It starts with the board who made the decision to go forward in faith with the project,” she said. “They have been very supportive with their time, talent and treasure.”

She said the board is  overwhelmed by the support of the churches.

“Their support has really meant a lot in both dollars and prayers,” she said. “We have donors from throughout the state and out of state, but primarily southwestern North Dakota with ties to St. Luke’s.”

She credited staff members who hold fundraisers such as root beer floats, jean’s days and rummage sales. She thanked the volunteers, who provide the music, worship services or help with fundraisers.

Kroll loves her job because of the residents.

“More than anything, it’s the residents I see as priceless treasures,” she said.

Different model

Goebel started working at St. Luke’s in July of 2012 — well after construction was underway. He was administrator of the hospital and nursing home in Bowman before accepting the position at St. Luke’s

“It’s a different model than I’ve ever worked at before,” he said.

While continuing as an 84-bed facility, the institutional model has been changed into neighborhoods each serving 20 to 22 residents.

Nurses may be paged through scroll bars in the hallways or by ear phones. Touch-screen computer kosks in the hallways are used for documentation of medical records.

“You won’t see a caregiver unless you call for one,” Goebel said. “I think those who are healthier really enjoy it because we have areas where they can be alone. They can watch a movie by themselves or with a group. There’s tons of space.”

St. Luke’s contracts with Therapy Solutions to provide the restorative therapies. One unit is geared toward short-term rehabilitation — the patient with the broken hip, for example.

Other beds are for the residents needing various levels of nursing care.

“We meet all of those needs,” Goebel said.

While St. Luke’s hasn’t increased the number of its beds, it has expanded its size to 90,000 square feet.


The facility is divided into four neighborhoods — the Badlands, Prairie, Homestead and Western, said Dixie Erhart, RN, director of quality and staff development.

Each neighborhood has two dining areas and a kitchen. The food is prepared in a central kitchen, but served in the smaller neighborhood kitchens, Erhart said.

“The residents have more space in the dining area, so as not to feel so crowded. It’s an intimate atmosphere, homelike rather than institution-based,” she said.

A majority of the residents have private rooms and bathrooms with showers. Husbands and wives may share a semi-private room.

“Because so many rooms are private, it makes end of life a lot easier for residents and loved ones,” she said.

St. Luke’s also has two family rooms, suitable for private family gatherings.

“They have large windows for the residents to look outside,” she said. “We also have fenced, secured areas outside each unit with walking paths.”

The chapel is near the entrance of St. Luke’s.

“We have worship services of all denominations every week,” she said. “We want to be able to support all aspects of residents’ needs — spiritual, physical and emotional needs.”

The Activities Department uses the chapel for large-group activities such as guest musicians. Smaller groups may gather in the neighborhoods.

A coffee nook is near the foyer. A small meditation room is enhanced with stained glass windows.

“I can’t wait for the grand opening when donors can see the finished product,” Erhart said.

The game room and beauty shop are near the chapel. The men may play cards, while the women have their hair done.

“It really makes them feel so much better about themselves,” Erhart said. “It’s also a social setting for women to come and visit.”

The neighborhood model has required the nursing staff to adapt to the changes of care.

 “The staff has all worked in standard nursing home institutions — the hallways were long and the nursing station was at a central location,” she said. “Here, you’re not always seeing staff. It definitely has a different feel. We’ve had to start with a clean slate as to how we approach this style of skilled nursing care because it is so different from traditional nursing homes.”

Erhart appreciates the opportunity to work at St. Luke’s.

“I love the continuing care provided in a long-term setting,” she said. “I love the relationships formed with residents. The environment is so rewarding and I know how much residents are benefitting from it.”