LONG BEACH - Since Bob Hall and Sally Pierson started making changes a year-and-a-half ago, the residents of Long Beach Retirement and Assisted Care [LBRAC] have started to feel more and more like they are part of a community - part of a family.
"We had looked at some other places in the area, but they all seemed sterile and spread out," said Ron Spiekerman of the search for a facility for his father-in-law. "He moved in about two years ago, and since then he has really gone through a transformation."
Spiekerman and his wife Cherri, of Long Beach, had been looking for a place for a family member to live when they could no longer give him the specialized care he needed.
The Spiekermans said when Cherri's step-father, Ano Lahdenpera, first moved to LBRAC he was kind of quiet and preferred to be left alone. Now, two years later, Lahdenpera is active and social, and he never wants to leave the family he has made. They said his turnaround is due to the people at LBRAC, especially Pierson, who is an administrator there.
"She really takes time to make everyone feel special and part of a family," Spiekerman said.
Pierson has a background in teaching others to care for the elderly. She used to travel the entire coast of Washington teaching in other facilities, but since she came to LBRAC, people have started coming to her to learn the inter-workings of the industry.
Pierson was originally brought on board as a consultant for the previous owner who was having trouble with management. At the same time, Hall was poised to re-take ownership because of a broken contract. Hall asked Pierson to stay.
Hall also brought in some new blood in the form of Bob Rowe, his grandson. Rowe acts as manager but splits time between Long Beach and a Tacoma nursing home.
"With Sally's help, we have really been able to make some positive improvements to the facility," said Rowe. "We decided that the menu should reflect what the residents want to eat rather than coming up with a menu based on what will cost the least."
Pierson has also began celebrating birthdays, holidays and special occasions. Bingo is one of the most popular activities, but crafts projects, quilting and the Ladies Tea parties are always well attended. Pierson said LBRAC is looking for a pool table so the gentlemen, and ladies who like pool, can have a regular game.
The employee compensation plan was changed to entice more qualified personnel, as well as keep the staff that was already in place, a choice that was easy to make according to Rowe.
"We are not in this business to make money. We are here to help people and make them feel at home," said Rowe. "We also want the people working here to know that they are special because of what they do for our residents. If that means paying them a little more to keep them here, that's fine."
Currently there are 14 people living at the facility, but there is room for up to 24 (29 if some of the rooms were not being used for office space). Rowe said that he is not as concerned with filling the facility with residents as he is with making the current residents feel at home.
For Pierson, the reason she is in this business is simple - it is where she was meant to be.
"They wiggle their way into your heart." Pierson on the residents of LBRAC. "This is where God wants me to be."
For more information about LBRAC, please call 642-2464.