It takes a village...

There's a whole new village in Perham--a chapel, main street, retail stores, coffee shop, barber shop and movie theater--and it's all within city limits.

There's a whole new village in Perham--a chapel, main street, retail stores, coffee shop, barber shop and movie theater--and it's all within city limits.

This small hamlet even has turtle races--just like its surrounding community.

The "town center" is located at the Perham Memorial Hospital and Home. It's a facility that is turning heads, not only those of residents, but others within the health care profession.

"We're really a forerunner here...we're envied around the state," said Sue Sailer, director of Social Services at PMHH.

It's been described as the "new model of care" among professionals and administrators. But the real objective is to create "home sweet home" for the residents.


In simple terms, the new model creates a "community" within the facility--complete with households, neighborhoods and a town center. But the model extends beyond just the structural. Residents are also given more freedom in scheduling meals, as well as their activity time.

"This is really a social model of care, rather than a medical or institutional model," said Sailer.

Quality of life--along with quality care--is the mission, said Sailer.

Famous for its summer turtle races, the volunteer race crew brought the "track" and the racing turtles right to the Perham Memorial Home August 30 for an afternoon of fast paced action. Residents smiled, laughed and applauded as the turtles crawled to the finish line. Some even won a buck if their turtle was victorious--including 100-year-old Sadie Nundahl.

The races are only one example of the way the activities staff are striving to establish a sense of community--rather than institution.

Even the simple relocation of the chapel, from the lower "basement" level to the main floor's town center was a significant move.

"It's really nice, more home-like," said Karen Laughlin, an activities director with PMHH. "The chapel is now much more accessible for visitors and residents...and also for hospital patients and visitors."

Now, the PMHH chapel--complete with ornate stained glass windows created by local artist Bonnie Tweeton--is just "down the street" from the town center's barber shop and coffee shop. There will be music, too, as a juke box will be installed in the center.


A large room has been transformed into the town center's "schoolhouse," complete with a country school-theme entry. This room will serve as an inter-generational gathering spot, as elementary students will be transported to PMHH for the after school, "latchkey" program.

The care facility is broken up into six "households" with an average of 16 per household. These are organized in three "neighborhoods," with the town center a gathering spot for all of the neighbors.

Burlington, Pine Harbor, Harvest Glen, Timber Grove, Prairie Knoll and Transition are the names of the "households," all of them with a community, hometown ring to them.

The "Town Center" at PMHH is nearing completion, and workers are working rapidly to complete it in time for the public grand opening, which is Oct. 7, from 2 to 5 p.m.

Nobody will be as happy to see the project completed as Marilyn Oehlfke, senior director of long term care services at PMHH. She has been a key leadership figure in the three year project.

Commenting on the new, patient-centered care concept, "with our new model, our staff adapt to the residents' routines, providing them with the support they need to continue to live their lives as they choose," said Oehlfke.

She credits the entire staff, and PMHH officials, for the team effort in building the new model--not only the physical transformation of the old "nursing home," but in the day to day quality of life improvements.

"We're incredibly fortunate to have a board...that allows us to dream--and allows the dream to become reality," said Sailer.

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