Declaration of Independence

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 25, 2001

Susan Mollergren moved to Oak Park Place after she made a mistake taking her medicine and had to go to the emergency room, said daughter Nancy Mollergren-Hanson.

Friday, May 25, 2001

Susan Mollergren moved to Oak Park Place after she made a mistake taking her medicine and had to go to the emergency room, said daughter Nancy Mollergren-Hanson. Her children encouraged her to move in with one of them, but Mollergren didn’t want to strain their relationships.

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&uot;They’re busy working, and it’s a little hard when you’re together too much,&uot; she said. &uot;We love each other, but sometimes it’s a little (hard to live together).&uot;

By staying in Albert Lea, Mollergren could stay close to friends and attend her own church. Oak Park staff help her with her medication.

&uot;I miss the house and the yard mostly,&uot; Mollergren said. &uot;We had wonderful neighbors.&uot;

Recent census results show Freeborn County is getting more older residents, especially those over age 75. Demographics indicate there will be another upsurge of elderly residents by 2030. As Freeborn County ages, residents are going to demand more varied services for the elderly, experts believe.

Oak Park Place, a new care center in Albert Lea, hopes to meet the changing demands of seniors.

Oak Park is a step between assisted living and long-term care facilities like a nursing home, said Director of Housing Jessica Richards.

Residents have more privacy than in a long-term care setting – they lock their apartments, have their own mailboxes, and most have kitchen facilities – but have the option of more help with daily living tasks than traditional assisted-living facilities, she said.

&uot;In the assisted-living side, the only time we are allowed to enter is for housekeeping, laundry, emergencies or maintenance,&uot; Richards said. &uot;It is their own space. I think that’s what they like is it allows them to maintain their dignity and their independence, but then as their needs increase we are able to provide more services.&uot;

There are 39 assisted living apartments with various floor plans. Residents get to choose their meals, which are included in the base monthly rate. Also included are weekly housekeeping and laundry services, and daily checks by staff, Richards said.

The residents range in age between 55 to 97, averaging 80 years old, Richards said.

&uot;We just really encourage people to be as independent as they can for as long as they can,&uot; said Kayla Ford, R.N., Director of Resident Services.

Not all assisted-living facilities have nurses on staff. Because of the levels of care Oak Park Place offers, residents don’t have to move if their health begins to decline, she said.

Traditionally, if someone who was in assisted living were to get cancer, they had to move to a nursing home. Here we are able to bring in hospice and care for them here.&uot;

At Oak Park Place, common areas offer a variety of entertainment: religious services, a game room, sun rooms, library, piano, side entry whirlpool, an activity room with kitchen and Internet access for residents. A fee-for-service beauty salon will open June 1, and Richards hopes the pool table will come soon. She plans on planting flower and vegetable gardens in the back yard. Coffee, juice and cookies are always on hand in the dining room. A nurse is in the building during the day, and on call at night.

Care is available for those who need more help. A wing for residents struggling with memory loss due to Alzheimers or dementia encourages residents to be independent, while taking a number of safety precautions.

The 16 rooms have doors for privacy, but no locks, showers or kitchens for safety reasons. Residents bring their own familiar furnishings from home and wear Wander-guard bracelets to notify staff if they leave the building, Richards said.

Alzheimers patient Bernie Ponto still goes to Lions Club every week, and goes on day trips with his wife. He is a member of a regular exercise group and goes on walks every day.

He moved into the Memory Lane wing in the end of March. He was diagnosed with Alzheimers earlier this year, and his wife had been taking care of him at home. But things are easier at Oak Park Place, he said.

&uot;They’ve got what I need for Alzheimers,&uot; Ponto said. &uot;They’ve got what it takes to keep me going. We’re lucky we have a place like this here.&uot;

Three people now live in the Alzheimers wing. One man who lives there has a wife in assisted living. They used to live in different facilities in Austin, now they can spend time together again, Richards said.

&uot;She comes in here a lot and they watch TV,&uot; she said. &uot;They eat a lot of meals together.&uot;

Oak Park Place is a private facility with branches in Mankato and Eau Claire. Most residents pay privately, but Richards is authorized to take a certain number of medical assistance residents. Thirteen residents live in the facility, which opened March 15.