Extending care to the elderly; Tahoe Forest facility receives high state rating
Tahoe Forest Extended Care Center offers care to residents of the hospital’s service area, providing a necessary service to the ever-growing elderly population.
Center Administrator Dana Beldon, a registered nurse, said community residents are a priority when open beds become available at the facility, which opened in 1986 and accommodates nearly 40 people.
“Some of the people here are long term, and have been here for nine years,” Beldon said, noting the center that is part of the Tahoe Forest Hospital complex offers an opportunity for residents to live their lives to the fullest.
Beldon said the center recently received accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.
“It means that we are accredited to provide a high level of care,” she said. “All nursing homes in the state are surveyed yearly by the State Department of Nursing Services and we always do really well.”
Beldon said the nursing home industry is the second most regulated one in the United States, behind the nuclear power industry.
Even though regulations govern every aspect of care at the center, staff still work to maintain a personal, caring atmosphere, with many activities both inside and outside the center. A staff of certified nurse assistants provide much of the care at the center.
“They are a very wonderful group of people,” Beldon said. “They work very hard and give very good care.”
Nurse’s assistant Margaret Mendoza is quick to say that her job is a fulfilling one because of interaction with the center’s patients.
Mendoza has worked at the center for four years, and said she has made good friends of several patients during that time.
In particular, she befriended a resident who had been a world traveler.
“We grew close and became good friends,” Mendoza said. “She liked to talk to me a lot and she had done a lot of traveling in her good years.”
Mendoza said her friend still traveled to the places she had visited throughout her life, in her memories.
“She asked me if I had ever mind-traveled,” Mendoza said “She mentally revisited the places she had been when she was still ambulatory.
“One day I walked into her room and she said, ‘I’m back from Japan,'” Mendoza said. “I said she hadn’t been any where, and she said she was talking about mind travel. She used to tell me about her trips and tea parties in London.”
Mendoza said helping people is what she likes best about her job.
“I like going the extra mile for residents to make them feel like they are in their own homes,” she said. “They need someone to talk to. The nursing home is one of the best. If my parents ever have to go to one, it would be this one. I like knowing that I’ve left my job and done something for someone – either made them smile or made them comfortable.”
Something new everyday
She said work with the center’s residents is a constant learning experience.
“The residents here keep me humble and keep me in reality,” she said. “You learn a lot of patience.”
Paula Pellerin, one of the center’s two activities directors, helps organize daily events inside and outside the center.
“I love my work,” Pellerin said. “I’ve been here eight years. It’s challenging; it’s rewarding and it gives me a purpose in my life. I couldn’t spend my time any better. These people are my family.”
Pellerin said her job is challenging because of the skills needed. She first joined the center’s staff about eight years ago as a nurse’s aide, and received her certification as an activities director a year later.
“My personal mission statement is to empower residents to give them the opportunity to grow in later life, and in so doing to grow myself,” Pellerin said.
She said center residents represent a diverse population, both culturally and economically, with people native to New York, Michigan, Texas and Wisconsin along with Californians.
“The experiences these people have had are just phenomenal,” Pellerin said.
Pellerin and fellow activities director Carol Meagher coordinated a full schedule for residents each day, with activities for those who are ambulatory and may leave the center, and those who have to remain inside.
Activities throughout the year include weekly pet visits from the Truckee-Donner Humane Society, trips to Boomtown, weekly card-playing club for men and bingo, along with picnics at Lake Tahoe and fishing trips to Donner Lake.
“They went to the Snow Dance in Incline Village last year, and the chief blessed them,” Pellerin said. “It was wonderful.”
Regular activities each day include discussions of cultural perspectives, news, exercise and bingo.
“We have a fantastic staff,” Pellerin said. “All of them are very committed to making it a homelike environment for the residents.”
Meagher said the center also has strong support from the community, both in the form of contributions from the hospital auxiliary and in donations from local stores.
“Safeway has donated bingo prizes, Halloween candy, and anything we want,” Meagher said. “They are so incredibly generous. All three managers are just wonderful. “
She said the volunteers who run the hospital auxiliary are mostly retired, and put in 40 hour weeks working at the hospital and raising funds for programs.
“They also gave us $1,200 to buy things for residents,” Meagher said. “Other hospitals don’t have that level of community support.”
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