Trimont facility marks 50 years

TRIMONT – Trimont Health Care Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary on Sunday afternoon, but many residents and staff already are strolling down memory lane.

Several of the staff have been there for a majority of the center’s operation.

“I was an aide for 30 years, and now I’m in the office,” said Julie Beckman. “Paula [Finke] started as a nurse’s aide here in ’73, and now she’s a nurse … Mark Ellanson has been in maintenance here for 32 years.”

Former Trimont City Clerk Ione Laase has spent more time at the center than a typical resident.

“The city clerk’s office used to be right down the hall,” she said.

The official 50-year mark for Trimont Health Care Center was Feb. 16. It was on that day in 1964 that the then-Trimont Nursing Home was dedicated as a 41-bed facility. Since then, there have been many changes.

“We have a wider range of ages here with rehab and training now,” said David Chavez, director of nursing. “We offer more services than we used to; that’s changed even in just the past few years.”

“When we first started, people came in and they stayed,” Finke said. “There is more transitional care now. People stay here for a while, rehab after surgery and then they leave.”

“I remember the first people who came in and left, because they had therapy, and when they left, we gave them a T-shirt that said ‘I Survived Trimont Nursing Home.'”

Laase remembers how having a city-operated nursing home was progressive at the time.

“In 1959, Triumph and Monterey combined to become Trimont,” she said. “Afterward, people here wanted a nursing home. We took a vote, and we assessed the town for 20 years, then it was paid for. I hand-wrote every assessment.”

Looking at the original petitions in support of building a nursing home brings a flood of memories.

“When I look at these names, I see people we’ve taken care of,” Beckman said.

The facilities has had some changes and expansions. And some new rules implemented.

“Everyone smoked,” Beckman recalled. “The nurses smoked, the residents smoked. You’d go into the break room and it was one big blue cloud.”

This brings laughs now, knowing most facilities require people to be many feet away from the building before they light up.

A chapel was added in 1993, and it was in 1997 the name was changed to Trimont Health Care Center.

Staffers also wore several different hats in the center’s earlier years.

“The aides did the laundry; there was no laundry personnel,” Beckman said. “There was lots of laundry done at night.”

While more than 1,200 residents have been taken care of at the center, the number of beds has declined from 41 to 36.

“Originally there was only one private room,” Beckman said. “The rest were double. Now we have five private rooms and the hospice room.”

The facility is also in the middle of another big change, changing from paper charting to electronic.

“We’re about halfway done, and hope to be 100 percent in the next three months,” Chavez said.

“We went from no paper, just clipboards, to lots of paper, back to no paper again,” Beckman said.

There is also much more training and regulations for staff.

“As a facility, we’re required to have specialized training for basic rehab,” Finke said. “The nurses need to have life support certification. There is a lot more education needed.”

Medical advances, more therapies and in-house physician visits also have helped with the quality care the facility provides.

“I think the best we ever had improves every year,” Chavez said.

Sunday’s open house celebration will be 2-4 p.m. Along with a short program and a silent auction, there will be music, refreshments, and photo presentations and historical displays.