Hillside Village starts bringing De Sotans home
As Mittie Pingleton sat in Hillside Village's nearly empty dining area awaiting her evening meal, she reflected on her new home.
"Where I used to live was nice, but this is home," she said.
Pingleton was one of Hillside Village's first residents when she moved from an Overland Park facility into the new assisted-living, skilled-nursing complex soon after it received its first state permits last month. A resident of De Soto for 50 years, Pingleton moved to a new assisted-living apartment to be closer to her children, Lana McPherson, Paul Pingleton, their families and her friends.
Her daughter visited her regularly while she lived in Overland Park, Pingleton said, but now McPherson can drop by just to say hello without making plans. She said Monday she was invited to an outing with her son's family the next day.
Pingleton and her three dinner companions, Jo Andrews, Elizabeth Gallagher and Dorothy Wildaboor, all said they were overjoyed with their new assisted-living apartments. They have only one complaint -- the meal portions are too large.
"The food's wonderful, but we can't eat it all," Andrews said.
Hillside Village's owner, Robert Haynes, said he and his staff are working on providing the four women more dinner companions.
"We have 12 residents now, which is a little ahead of where we thought we would be at this time," he said. "But we're eager to have more."
Five residents have moved into the skilled-nursing facility, and seven of the 38 apartments on the assisted-living side of the complex were occupied, Haynes said. Recruiting efforts kicked into high gear just as Hillside Village experienced a change at the top. Helen Frye, who was named the facilities first administrator in June, is now gone.
The transition was somewhat awkward, Haynes admitted, because othe active community role Frye accepted in her short stay in De Soto.
"She was a very personable person," he said. "I don't think I've run into someone with the extraordinary public relation skills as Helen. I have come to understand the skills I wanted in getting the facility ready to open were not the same as those I wanted when it was operational.
"Nothing is more important to me, other than my family, than what goes on out there. I came to the understanding we needed a change in direction."
Hillside Village's new administrator was John Howe, Haynes said. Hired as an interim, Howe would stay at least through the end of the year. Both men were leaving open the possibility of a longer relationship.
"He has 20 years in the field," Haynes said. "He is providing very knowledgeable experience to me and my staff."
Howe, whose career has included stops at Sabetha, Topeka and Ottawa, said he started his new job with an agenda that included two immediate tasks.
The to-do list included seeing Hillside Village and its staff through the final stages of the Medicaid and Medicare licensing process, Howe said. When those licenses were secured, the skilled-nursing facility could start accepting referrals from hospitals.
Another task occupying his time was the near-daily inquiries from potential residents and their families, Howe said. Testimonials from Pingleton and other satisfied residents made the recruitment effort easier, he said.
"Definitely, word of mouth is always the best selling point," Howe said. "We have more staff than we're required to at this time. As we grow, we'll be adding more staff. The people we do have are benefiting because they have been getting a lot of personal care.
"They've told their friends. Referrals always speak highly."
Hillside Village's new administrator said other assets in selling the complex were its affordability, its design and the opportunity it offered for "aging in place."
"I think Dr. Haynes did a wonderful job of remodeling the older skilled nursing facility and integrating it with the new assisted living area," Howe said. "There was a lot of attention to detail and color scheme -- a lot of warm tones to make it more homey.
"A nice part about this is the assisted living works for couples. If one partner needs more care, that person can move to the skilled nursing and the husband or wife can live on the site in an apartment. De Soto is very fortunate to have a facility of this size available.
The complex's landscaping was postponed to cooler weather, Howe said. Trees, scrubs and grass were now being planted.
The park's winding sidewalk and fountain should be finished this week, Howe said.