‘A community within a community’: Hill Top Home of Comfort responds to needs of Killdeer area

KILLDEER -- Residents of Killdeer's Hill Top Home of Comfort were kept busy on a recent Tuesday. The Men's Club returned from a breakfast outing, and some got haircuts at Hill Top's beauty shop, while others attended afternoon church services and...

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Press Photo by Linda Sailer Residents use a parachute for exercise and to have fun at the same time on Tuesday at Hill Top Home of Comfort.

KILLDEER - Residents of Killdeer’s Hill Top Home of Comfort were kept busy on a recent Tuesday. The Men’s Club returned from a breakfast outing, and some got haircuts at Hill Top’s beauty shop, while others attended afternoon church services and played parachute games.
Just like any retirement home, the residents chatted with the staff and relaxed while watching TV the community room.
Hill Top’s staff takes pride in creating a home-like atmosphere within its 52-bed facility on the west side of Killdeer.
“It’s a community within a community,” Director of Nursing Ann Hedger said. “We work very hard to keep the community involved. We have a group of card players who come almost every day to play cards with the residents.”
Activities director Kat Young referenced Killdeer’s fourth-graders, who visit the home on a regular basis.
“We try to keep the same child with the same resident,” she said. “That way, they get to know each other more. When I see kids at ball games, they ask when they will be coming next. They love it.”
Young plans a variety of interests, including outings to the bandshell in Dickinson, fishing at Lake Ilo and Lake Sakakawea, and trips to the Four Bears Casino at New Town.
Once a month, the residents go shopping. They play bingo and recently had a Mardi Gras party. They even make their own meals on occasion.
“We have special meals where the residents help make the meals,” Young said. “We just did a borscht supper, where the residents cut and peeled the vegetables.”
Tracing its roots
Hill Top Home of Comfort traces its roots to community leaders who saw the need for skilled nursing care in Dunn County during the 1980s.
“A lot of work was put into it to get the skilled beds,” Hedger said. “Actually, there was a moratorium on beds at the time.”
The home opened with 80 beds providing basic care and skilled nursing care. It was later downsized to 50 skilled care beds. As the needs of the community have evolved, the board decided to renovate one wing into a 14-bed special care unit.
“The board made the decision to better use the wing by creating a unit for people with dementia,” said administrator Gerry Leadbetter, who is employed by Health Management Services, the company that manages the facility. “We opened in October, and it’s been a huge success so far. We had a need already in the building and that was the driving force behind it.”
The staff has noticed a change in atmosphere throughout the facility since the special needs wing has opened.
“The residents are much more satisfied, happier and calmer,” Hedger said. “We like to show it off. … We’re pretty proud of how it turned out.”

The Hill Top Heritage Foundation raises funds for items such furniture or unit decorations.
“We just finished a steak fry and auction, and it was a huge success this year,” said Fayleen Fischer, the foundation’s director. “From that, we donated furniture to the special needs unit. We did all the artwork - very cool stuff. We scanned old pictures from the Dunn County Museum. It’s a very warm place and when you go down, you feel it’s calm and relaxed. They have beautiful views out of the windows.”
Fischer taught at Killdeer High School before joining the foundation staff about a 1½ years ago.
“I think the staff is extremely dedicated and very caring,” she said. “They go above and beyond. I see nurses having conversations with residents and it happens all the time.”
The foundation recently purchased a $25,000 bathtub.
The next fundraiser will be a golf scramble in September
“The nurses have a few things on their wish list they didn’t get last year,” she said. “We’re also looking at installing security cameras for the nurses when they leave here in the middle of the night. But right now, the utmost important thing is the assisted living unit.”
The next step

The next step is to launch a fundraising campaign to construct assisted living apartments. The 20 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments will be financed with a USDA Rural Development loan and a local fundraising campaign. Construction is scheduled to start by mid-summer.
“Now that we’ve finished the one project, we can start another,” Leadbetter said. “They told me I couldn’t do two projects at once.”
The study to determine the need for assisted living was completed three or four years ago and the population has continued to grow since then, Leadbetter said. “... Assisted living will be here whether oil is here or not. It’s development for the community and it’s providing jobs here.”
Hill Top is challenged to recruit nurses to its rural setting - which has also been greatly impacted by the North Dakota oil industry - and to keep the staffing consistent, Hedger said.
It provides housing, nursing scholarships through its foundation and a loan repayment program, Hedger added. It also recruits nurses from the Dickinson State University nursing program.
The oil activity in the region has allowed to Hill Top employ staff who are both local and from out of state.
“We have seen a culture change out in the community and that’s brought a culture change within Hill Top,” Hedger said. “We’re getting people of all nationalities and from all areas of the country. We get of lot of comments that they like it here, it’s friendly and feel a lot of cohesiveness.”
To enhance the family atmosphere, Hill Top has established a casual wear policy for employees.
“That was a good change,” Hedger said. “When I started nursing, we were still wearing white uniforms and white shoes. We’ve evolved.”
The faces of the residents are a 50-50 mix of men and women who are mostly local residents. There are also those from around the region and out of state.
“It might be a family moved here from out of state and brought their loves ones here,” Hedger said.
Families who wish to admit their loved ones refer to Social Services Director Donna Rohr.
Along with admitting residents, she responds to resident concerns and describes her office as the “hot spot” of the facility.
“I’ve made a lot of friends in my position,” she said. “I wore a few different hats before I started and that’s definitely helped.”
Leadbetter said Rohr deals with the families during admission of residence.
“She’s the face of our facility, she’s the voice they get to hear first,” Leadbetter said. “She has a very important role, and didn’t elaborate enough about what she does for us.”

Sailer is the lifestyles editor of The Dickinson Press. Call her at 701-456-1209.


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