Chosen Valley Care Center resident Harold Mangan, at left, visits with staff member Mimi Seamens, center, and resident Violet Bicknese in the entry of the care center.  PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Chosen Valley Care Center resident Harold Mangan, at left, visits with staff member Mimi Seamens, center, and resident Violet Bicknese in the entry of the care center. PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS

Chosen Valley Care Center is seeing stars - quality gold ones.

The Chosen Valley Care Center in Chatfield was included as one of Minnesota's and the nation's five-star nursing homes in an assessment conducted by U.S. News & World Report Magazine and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

"It's quite an accomplishment, something everyone should know about," said Chosen Valley Care Center (CVCC) director Craig Backen, "because the criteria measured to obtain that recognition is challenging and extensive. The article talks about the specific areas staff at U.S. News & World Report assessed in order to rank some 16,000 nursing homes across the nation, and to think about being among the 'best of the best' list is an exciting feeling."

According to U.S. News & World Report's post on MSN, "An estimated 3.3 million Americans will live in the nation's nearly 16,000 nursing homes during 2013. That number translates to 1 in seven people, ages 65 and up, and more than 1 in five of those, 85 and older. They and their families will want and need a way to find a source of the best possible care. For many, it won't be easy."

It went on to cite that the "Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sets and enforces standards for nursing homes enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid, as most are. The agency also collects information from states and individual homes and assigns each home a rating of one to five stars in each of three categories: state-conducted health inspections, nursing and physical therapy staffing, and quality of medical care. In January 2013, 3,036 nursing homes earned an overall rating of five stars from the federal government."

But nobody at CVCC knew they had achieved the high ratings...until someone casually surfed the Internet.

"One of the managers, Suzette Moechnig, noticed that there was information posted on MSN - she was going through something else work-related on the Internet," Backen related. "She noticed this news clipping, noticed the information, and the first thing she did was tell us about it, and a lot of the staffing team started looking at it. It was shared internally, and the staff celebrated the news. We had a pizza party for all the staff."

From Mimi Seamens' welcoming smile at the reception desk to the certified nursing assistants who care for residents, Backen is pleased to have such skilled staff he and the residents can rely on.

"Everyone's role is different but as important," he said. "Everyone's doing what we do to take care of people. To earn such an's an incredible feeling. We have a lot of things to be proud of, a lot of people to be proud of - from the staff who work here to the board of directors and volunteers - everyone who's been a part of supporting what we do, of our mission."

Backen, who joined the staff as director nine years ago, is proud to share the news with the community, as he feels the home is a comfortable place for seniors and those who need daily living assistance.

"There are a lot of aspects about our organization that make it a location of choice," Backen added. "We have friendly staff, a home-like environment, professionalism displayed by everyone meeting the needs of the people, and we not only meet the needs of the people from this community who are currently here, but also thinking proactively and making decisions about what people will want. There are challenges in healthcare, but in this industry, we try to prepare for them ahead of time and meet today's needs and tomorrow's."

He hopes that the care center's home philosophy makes seniors' transition from home to care center living easier.

"We incorporate things people used to have when they lived at home into our environment here," Backen explained. "It helps people make the transition, such as keeping their own sleeping hours and patterns - we keep the lights down and don't vacuum until after 9 a.m. each day, having five opportunities to dine each day, we let people rest and get out of bed at their leisure, and we try to base our schedule on the needs of the residents. Those are the things they're used to having at home, and we try to continue that important transition from home to the care center. And safety is important, such as proper staffing levels, safety components, good communication and more."

Also, residents certainly can't complain about lacking things to do - the activities department is always busy meeting the needs of people from different backgrounds who have diverse hobbies and interests. Backen added that these activities are not just onsite but also include travel opportunities - maybe for a day of fishing at Lanesboro or to a play or out to eat.

"We're meeting a lot of social and recreational needs, keeping very to day, there's a lot of good energy," he said.

Backen commended the staff, Founder's Committee, the board of directors, housekeeping and everyone in each department one more time for their commitment to excellence in caring for the elderly and infirm.

"I think there are a lot of unique aspects about who we are," he said. "When the care center was started in 1976, it truly followed its mission and has been a part of a lot of people's lives. We've added a lot of services and have helped keep people healthy. One of the things about a community care center is that people from the community can live close to it and have close proximity to visit their loved ones."

Backen concluded, "This level of award is something that everyone can celebrate, whether they live, work or visit here. It's something to be proud of and appreciate having in the community. It's special people caring for special people."