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Lakeview welcomes residents home

Above: Lakeside Cafe will provide a space for residents and guests to share a meal or a cup of coffee in a comfortable setting.

FAIRMONT– About 60 of Fairmont’s community members have a new place to call “home.” Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center finished moving residents into its brand new 81,000 sq. ft skilled nursing facility this week. The move signifies the near-end of a $24 million project several years in the making.

Construction on the project began in the summer of 2020 but the idea to build a new facility was born around five years ago. The original plan was to remodel the current facility but with so many changes taking place, the board decided to construct a whole new building instead.

The goal of the new facility was to be more “homey” and less hospital-like, which is how Lakeview Administrator Deb Barnes described Lakeview’s former 50-year-old building.

Some highlights of the new facility, located on the back parking lot of Lakeview’s campus, include a gift shop, updated “dot’s beauty salon,” several family rooms and a large communal space. There is also a new state-of-the-art physical therapy room.

Of course, the facility also has 72 private rooms, and four bariatric rooms, for residents. Barnes shared how the move went this week.

“We had amazing camaraderie and teamwork. We had six teams and everyone was willing to be on a team. I was, our managers, maintenance staff, housekeepers and nursing staff. Each team moved six people on Tuesday, six people on Wednesday and by yesterday(Wednesday) afternoon everyone was moved,” Barnes said.

She said families also came to help get residents settled, which was appreciated.

While the project isn’t 100 percent complete, it’s very close.

“It’s finished to the point that residents are here and safe and comfortable but there’s a few things left to do,” Barnes said.

She said a contractor is there finishing some things on the roof and there are some areas where minor problems developed.

As for the new space where child care center Building Blocks will be housed, Barnes said it’s on hold for right now and that she hopes to see the county and city get involved.

“Lakeview has gone a long way down the road to ensuring childcare in this community,” Barnes said.

In 2017 when Building Blocks lost its rental site and needed space, Barnes opened up an area inside Lakeview and offered the child care program the space. Plans for the new facility also included a large room for Building Blocks but Barnes said the cost for materials have greatly increased and they had to put their dollars into the skilled nursing facility first.

“It isn’t just Lakeview’s issue, it’s a county and city issue. We can’t solve the whole problem. We would like to see other entities come forward and say let’s partner with Lakeview and get this done,” Barnes said.

As for how the residents feel about their new home, Karen Meier said with a laugh, “I entered the Hyatt Regency Hotel.”

Meier has lived in Woodland Manor, on Lakeview’s campus, for over two years. She recently had some surgeries that led her to Lakeview for rehab. She stayed in the former facility for four days before making the move to the new facility.

“When you walk in here, you get a feeling of peace and tranquility just from the way it’s been designed,” she said.

A previous back surgery led Meier to St. Therese in Brooklyn Park to stay for rehab. She said that place was nice, but Lakeview beats it.

“It doesn’t look like a nursing home. Everything in here is made for your comfort. You have all of the conveniences of home,” Meier said.

She especially likes the windowsill each room has that allow space to put plants and a ledge along the walls to put framed pictures on. She said the bathroom in each room provide ample counter space, different areas for storage as well as a large shower.

“You have a closet, a dresser, a desk and a nightstand and all of that is permanent,” Meier said.

She also really enjoys how meal times take place in the new facility, which is different than how it used to be. The residents are split into four “neighborhoods.” There’s gold, blue, red and green. Each neighborhood has its own kitchen and staff from dining services brings over the food.

Meier likes that people can see the cooks and talk to them and she said it feels like they’re eating in a restaurant. She also likes how sitting with people from your own neighborhood allows the chance to talk and get to know one another.

She shared that Lakeside Cafe, which she calls a bistro, has other options if you want something different to eat. It also allows for a comfortable place for residents to have a snack or meal with guests.

Meier had previously worked as a nursing assistant at Lakeview years ago. She called the difference between the two facilities “night and day” and agreed with Barnes’ observation that even the white walls in the old facility said “hospital” but that the tasteful colors in the new building alone provide comfort. That, along with the many fireplaces and cozy seating areas.

A project years in the making, requiring fundraising, planning and troubleshooting when hiccups arose, finally coming to fruition.

“It’s been my dream since the first day I started this job. It feels like the birth of a wonderful new chapter,” Barnes said.

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