Ecumen Century Club: Happy 104th Birthday Dolores Spreter

Ecumen honors Dolores Spreter, a resident of Ecumen Pathstone Living, who is 104.

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Honoring Ecumen’s Longest Tenured Employee: Dawn Bolhuis, LPN, Kindhearted and Compassionate Nurse

Nurse Dawn Bolhuis, Ecumen's longest tenured employee, can't wait to start her next shift, and the residents she cares for can't wait to see her.

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Ecumen Century Club: Happy 101st Birthday Christina (Tina) Gray

Ecumen honors Christina (Tina) Gray, a resident of Ecumen Pathstone Living in Mankato, Minn., who is 101.

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Glen Campbell I'll Be Me Theaters and Dates

Ecumen Century Club: Happy 101st Birthday Frieda Westphal

Ecumen honors Frieda Westphal, aresident of Ecumen Pathstone Living, who is 101.

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An Ecumen Consultant’s Quest To Make Sense of Dementia

Tom Stober, an expert on process and efficiency, was routinely going about his work one day when he walked into a room and came face-to-face with something that “shook me to the core.”  It was not logical.  It was not rational.  The normal rules of organization did not apply.  On some deep level, it rocked his orderly world.

It was a memory care community, where residents with dementia live.

Tom works for Minnesota Lean Partners, which had been hired by Ecumen over a year ago to improve customer experiences by teaching staff how to focus on what is truly important—what really adds value— and eliminating unnecessary things that get in the way of that goal.  This was his first consulting assignment in senior services.   A mechanical engineer by training, Tom had worked for many manufacturing companies, most notably Toyota, where he first learned the principles of “lean” management from the masters.

The Ecumen training sessions Tom was conducting were going well.  He was teaching, and he was learning.  But that first exposure to memory care was life-changing for him.

“I had heard about Alzheimer’s and dementia,” he says, “but I was never truly exposed to the impact that this has on the residents as well as their families.”

After visiting the memory care community at Ecumen Detroit Lakes, Tom remembers going to his hotel room that night preoccupied with his experience.  He just could not get it out of his mind. “I was troubled by the degree that this bothered me.  I struggled with the fact that these crippling diseases destroy what was once functioning human beings as mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.”

There was just no apparent logic to it.

Yet as Tom watched the caregivers at work, he was in awe of “how loving, caring and forgiving” they were— and how effective.

“I was amazed at the strength and caring of the Ecumen staff working in this environment day-in and day-out,” Tom recalls. “Being briefly exposed to some of the behaviors that Ecumen care providers experience daily, it had a sincere and profound impact on me. I have a much higher appreciation for their contributions to the organization and their dedication to providing a high quality care to those that truly need it.”   

A powerful emotion swept over him.  “What I saw made me more dedicated to the work Ecumen is doing and made me want to help the staff more,” he recalls. 

“I know caregiving is a job I could not do,” Tom says.  “It takes a certain type of person.”

But he realized he is the certain type of person who could make caregivers’ jobs easier.  That could be his way of coming to terms and making a contribution.

From Tom’s point of view, you can always make things better with organization, standardization and elimination of useless and wasteful practices—whether in a manufacturing plant or a memory care community. 

“This could be my small way of paying it forward,” he decided.

On the most basic level, he noticed right away that caregivers spent a lot of time just looking for things they needed, often going in and out of rooms several times looking for supplies and equipment.  So he helped staff systematically figure out how to put all the tools of care in the same place in every room.  With everything they need easy to find, they are freed up to spend more time in direct care. 

Then he started digging deeper.  How can we organize care around the biorhythms of the residents?  When is the best time of day to have activities?  How can space best be used to optimize residents’ enjoyment?  How can we improve the residents’ environment and create better experiences?  Recently, he worked with the memory care staff at Ecumen Pathstone Living in Mankato, Minn., to completely revamp the memory care community.  Go to Ecumen’s Changing Aging blog to read about this effort.

Over the past year and a half, Tom has trained more than 1,000 Ecumen employees in “lean” principles and has run more than 40 events to analyze situations and implement continuous improvements.  And his work continues— not only in creating better practices but also sustaining them.

As Tom was working with Ecumen and coming to grips with his reaction to observing dementia firsthand, his personal story took another turn.  Tom learned that his own father is now in the early stages of dementia.

The lean management expert bonded with the dementia experts at Ecumen.

“I have gained so much knowledge about dementia,” Tom says. “The Ecumen nurses have really helped me better understand what is happening with my father, and how it’s happening and the progression to expect moving forward.”

And the paying it forward continues.


Ecumen received a Performance-based Incentive Payment Program (PIPP) award from the Minnesota Department of Human Services beginning October 1, 2011 - September 30, 2015.  LEAN the Ecumen Way is a company-wide initiative to improve the way Ecumen delivers services in day-to-day operations. LEAN focuses on eliminating non-value added activities in our work— “wastes,” which get in the way of the more important value-added activities that customers desire.

In addition to improving resident experiences by introducing LEAN management techniques, Ecumen has pledged to reduce antipsychotics among people with dementia and improve lives in all Ecumen nursing homes through its Awakenings program (see  In 2010, Ecumen was awarded a three-year performance-based grant from the State of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services to expand its pilot Awakenings program to Ecumen’s 15 nursing homes.   Such grants help organizations expand innovative, results-based initiatives.  These homes serve more than 1,000 people, including some of society’s most challenging dementia cases.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently profiled the Awakenings program.

Ecumen Pathstone Living Adds State-of-the-Art Treadmill To Its Rehabilitation Equipment

Ecumen Pathstone Living in Mankato, Minn., has added a LiteGait® Treadmill to its transitional care center allowing older adults to more safely begin rehabilitation walking programs after injuries, surgeries and hospital stays. 

 The treadmill’s suspension technology reduces the risk of falling, allowing older adults in rehabilitation programs to resume walking with more confidence.

 “Thanks to the help from several generous donors, we can now offer this state-of-the art equipment as part of our rehabilitation program,” said Beth Colway, Ecumen Pathstone Living’s development coordinator.  “This new treadmill opens up additional options for our physical therapists to help older adults recover from injuries or surgeries and return to living in their homes.”

 Beth said the new treadmill cost just over $20,000 — fully paid for by donations.

 With some older adults, regaining the ability to walk after hip fractures or other lower body injuries can be extremely difficult. Some never regain the ability to walk because they can’t endure the necessary physical therapy that incorporates walking and weight bearing activities. By utilizing LiteGait®, Pathstone therapists can offer programs that safely increase the possibility of walking again.

 LiteGait® explains the capabilities of its treadmill this way: “Our patented system maintains the patient in a secure, upright position.  By reducing the risk of falling, LiteGait provides a safer therapy environment.  More than just and extra pair of hands, LiteGait’s most important effect is the confidence it inspires in patients.  In a process that is often difficult and painful for both patient and therapist, LiteGait® encourages a sense of accomplishment, progress, and ultimately, success.”

 LiteGait® can assist with numerous types of therapy, including postural support for sitting, standing, walking and running, pain-free movement that encourages walking with normal gait mechanics, partial weight bearing, upper body mobility, balance and coordination, neurological gait training, geriatric conditioning, fall prevention and weight control programs. 

 In the photo, Grace Carlson, a resident of Ecumen Pathstone Living Short Stay Care Center, is assisted on the new LiteGait® treadmill by Becca Gish, a physical therapist.


Ecumen Pathstone Living, which has been serving the Mankato area for more than 75 years, provides services including skilled nursing care, short-term rehabilitation, memory care, and assisted living apartments. Pathstone also offers home care, adult day services, and catering services. More than 500 people each day benefit directly from Pathstone services. Ecumen Pathstone Living is owned by Ecumen, the most innovative leader in senior services.  In 2004, Ecumen Pathstone Living opened its transitional care center providing short-term therapy and rehabilitation, which now serves approximately 350 adults each year. 

SVP Steve Ordahl Tells the Star Tribune How Ecumen Got Ahead of Change in Senior Housing

The Star Tribune recently interviewed Steve Ordahl, senior vice president of business development at Ecumen, about his insights into how senior housing development has changed in the past decade, and what he sees ahead for the marketplace.

Steve retires January 15, 2014, after guiding Ecumen’s development and diversification efforts for the past 10 years and helping make the company a leader in creating new options for seniors.


Enventis Grant Brings More Technology to Ecumen Pathstone Living

Thanks to a technology grant from Enventis, a communications company headquartered in Mankato, Minn., more residents at Ecumen Pathstone Living are going digital.

Enventis, formerly known as HickoryTech, gave a $2,000 grant to Ecumen Pathstone Living to purchase iPads and iPods, which residents are now using to listen to music, play games and access YouTube.  Also, some residents are using the devices to listen to church services as well as nature sounds.  The grant money was also used to purchase a $250 Amazon gift card to be used for downloading books and music.

 In the photo (below) resident Willy Kjarum learns about the iPad from Jodi Fales, a recreation assistant.                

Beth Colway, the development coordinator at Ecumen Pathstone Living, says the activities staff has been introducing the new equipment to residents, who are enjoying all the new possibilities.

Enventis offers broadband Internet, digital TV, and voice and data services to businesses and consumers in southern Minnesota and northwest Iowa and other communication and data systems to businesses across a five-state region. 

Ecumen Pathstone Living, which has been serving the Mankato area for more than 75 years, provides services including skilled nursing care, short-term rehabilitation, memory care, and assisted living apartments. Pathstone also offers home care, adult day services, and catering services. More than 500 people each day benefit directly from Pathstone services. Ecumen Pathstone Living is owned by Ecumen, the most innovative leader in senior services.

In the photo (below) Enventis representatives Jennifer Spaude and Janet McCullough make the ceremonial check presentation to Jennifer Pfeffer, executive director of Ecumen Pathstone Living.

Lefse and Krumkake: Ecumen Pathstone Living Shares Scandinavian Heritage and 21-Year Bake Sale Tradition

The smell of lefse and krumkake wafted through the air at Ecumen Pathstone Living in Mankato, Minn., last weekend as crowds gathered to enjoy a 21-year tradition called the Scandinavian Experience Bake Sale.

More than 80 volunteers from the Mankato community contributed to the annual sale, and about $5,000 was raised.

Volunteers bake in their homes or at Pathstone Living’s kitchen, and all baked goods are delivered to Ecumen Pathstone Living on Friday before the sale.  Volunteers sort, package and price all the goods. They decorate the chapel and residents get first choice at their private sale Friday afternoon before the event.

Volunteers spend over 20 hours preparing and making the lefse in the kitchen at Grace Lutheran Church and give demonstrations to promote Scandinavian baking traditions. 

The day of the sale, Santa and St. Lucia greet customers. Proceeds go to support the residents at Ecumen Pathstone Living.  This year the money will go toward new therapy equipment.

A Veterans Day Message From Ecumen CEO Kathryn Roberts

Millions of American military veterans have honored us with their service.  Today, we set aside a special day to honor them and thank them for all they have done.

At Ecumen we care for many veterans and their loved ones, and we know firsthand the sacrifices they have made for all of us.   Our promise is to honor them every day, but on this day of tribute, please say a special “thank you.”  One way you can do that is to go to your Ecumen community’s Facebook page and share a thank-you or tribute.

Today at the Minnesota History Center, Ecumen will be hosting a program and luncheon to honor members of the “Greatest Generation.”  Ecumen blogger Jim Klobuchar and his daughter U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar will provide keynotes.  Highlights will be tweeted during the event, and we’ll post more information online afterward.

The Greatest Generation is one in which almost everyone played a part in service to our country, either on the battlefronts of World War II or in support of the war effort at home.  Then after the war, they focused on building the world’s strongest, most prosperous nation that we all benefit from today.

We can all learn something about honor and dignity from this Greatest Generation, who sacrificed so much to ensure that we who followed could be safe, free and successful.  At Ecumen, we have gotten to know them well, since most of our residents are members of the Greatest Generation.  We know what they are made of, and we are honored to now serve them, who served us so unselfishly.

Today, we thank all veterans everywhere for their service—an act of generosity that we can never repay.  And a special thanks to all our residents and employees who are veterans, and their loved ones who are in active duty.  We honor you today, and every day.  Thank you so very much for all you did and do for us.