Officials: Rock Haven project emphasizes sunshine, space, safety

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Wednesday, May 1, 2013

— The new Rock Haven Nursing Home has sunshine in every room, spas in every neighborhood and Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Artie Shaw on the jukebox.

There are also sprinklers in the closets, but we’ll get to that later.

On Tuesday, Rock County Board members and administrators took a tour of the $32 million building that will serve as the county’s new nursing home.

“I think it is an amazingly beautiful place,” Rock County Administrator Craig Knutson said. “It’s a credit to the county board and the citizens of this county that they made this investment in this state-of-the-art facility to care for our citizens.”

The move-in date for the new building is scheduled for May 13, with an open house for the public on May 11.

Outdated facility

The original Rock Haven was built in 1963 as a “rest home,” not a nursing home for acutely ill people, Knutson said.

Nursing home administrator Sherry Gunderson recalled her nurse’s aide training in 1973.

“Then, all the patients went downstairs and got into a tray line for their meals,” Gunderson said.

The residents who currently live in Rock Haven would have been hospitalized in those days, Knutson said.

As residents began to have more needs, the four-story nursing home became more challenging for staff and patients.

Food was transported to Rock Haven from the nearby health care center, which made it difficult to keep meals hot—or even warm.

The bathrooms, designed for ambulatory residents, were often too small for bathing or dressing.

Finally, the building did not have air conditioning. Window units helped, but staff often struggled to keep residents comfortable in the summer.

Modern times

The new Rock Haven is just across the parking lot from the old one, but it feels a world away.

Here are seven improvements at the new Rock Haven facility:

1. No elevators: The single-story building has four “neighborhoods,” each built around a central core. Each neighborhood has two “households” of 16 people each, for a total capacity of 128.

2. Fresh food: Each household has a central living and dining rooms and a kitchen. Food is prepared in a restaurant-grade kitchen in the central core and then taken the short distance to the dining rooms.

The household kitchens can be used for activities and snacks.

3. More sunshine: Living and dining rooms face large courtyards with walkways, benches, plants and glassed-in gazebos. The complex has two courtyards, so all residents have easy access.

4. Energy-efficient heating and cooling: The complex has geothermal heating and cooling. Geothermal systems use the earth’s temperature as a source of heat and heat exchange.

In the neighborhoods, radiant floor heat keeps the areas around large windows warm.

5. Practical bathrooms: The large bathrooms contain all the usual amenities, but residents won’t have to step over any kind of barrier to get to the shower. Each neighborhood also has a “spa” with a bathtub that can accommodate residents in wheelchairs.

6. Family access: The building has a large footprint, but families don’t have to travel far to visit residents. Each neighborhood has its own parking lot and entrance.

7. The safest closets ever: Each bedroom has built-in drawers topped by a small built-in closet with a rod for hanging clothes.

Despite the dimensions, state inspectors required the closets to have sprinklers because each is an “enclosed space,” said Randy Terronez, assistant to administrator.

Facility’s jukebox runs the gamut

The new Rock Haven is decorated with many of the treasures and leftovers from the old building.

Bookcases, antique hutches, end tables, wooden chairs and even metal filing cabinets are being put to use.

One of the most important pieces of furniture from the old building is the jukebox.

Previously, the jukebox was in the basement-level community room. Its new home is the “social room,” an area for family and resident get-togethers.

The jukebox, which is free to use, contains an unexpected selection of music ranging from big band standards to Tesla.

Choices include:

-- “City of New Orleans,” by Willie Nelson.

-- “I Walk the Line,” by Johnny Cash.

-- “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’,” by Loretta Lynn.

-- “Oh Boy!’ by Buddy Holly.

-- “Save the Last Dance,” by the Drifters.

-- “Lola” by the Kinks.

-- “Immigrant Song,” by Led Zeppelin.

-- “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” by an unknown jazz band.

Rock on.

—Catherine W. Idzerda


Last updated: 10:41 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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