Written by Don Ratzlaff Monday, 31 December 2012 11:36
It’s hard to separate Parkside Homes from Lu Janzen.
That’s true in the sense of longevity.
Janzen came on board as an accountant in 1970, a mere eight years after Parkside opened. Except for two years away during the mid-1980s, she’s been on board ever since, including 37 years as its lead administrator.
It’s true in terms of Parkside’s path to becoming a state leader in senior care.
“What a privilege to be able to work with older people and help make a difference in the quality of living for them,” Janzen said. “I’ve only had the vision as to how older persons should have a chance to live. God worked through me and I was fortunate to have board members who caught the vision and helped make it come true.”
And it’s going to be true for Janzen herself as she steps away from Parkside in the days and weeks following her Dec. 31 retirement.
“It’s going to be terribly hard,” she said of the transition. “Working with older people was just something very special. I felt it was my calling because this job is not a 40-hour job.”
Finding her place
A Nebraska native, Janzen came to Hillsboro as a Tabor College student. She graduated with degrees in accounting and pre-nursing, which turned out to be helpful for her future career.
When she and husband Marlin moved back to Hillsboro in the 1960s, she took an accounting job with Classen Bookkeeping Services; Parkside became one of her clients.
In 1970, Janzen obliged Parkside’s request to do her work on the campus. When the administrator resigned in 1975, residents asked the board to appoint Janzen as his successor.
“It appealed to me right away,” she said of the board’s invitation.
By the end of the year, Janzen was licensed as an adult care home administrator after completing 100 contact hours at Hays and then taking the state and federal tests.
At times, that goal was challenge.
“I had to have the hours, so I drove to Hays in a snowstorm—even around the road-closed gates to get to Hays—in order to get enough points to take the tests,” she recalled. “Getting there late, I had to study and do writing assignments most of the night to make up for the class I missed by being late.”
Expansion and growth
Established as a not-for-profit church-related organization, Parkside Homes was already on the cutting edge by offering three levels of care when it opened. The fall Janzen became administrator, it was licensed for intermediate care as well.
Under Janzen’s watch, Parkside Homes:
• was certified for Medicaid in 1975 and opened 18 private rooms in the “B” wing;
• renovated the kitchen, enlarged the dining room and moved the offices in 1984;
• opened “C” wing in 1988 with 10 semi-private rooms and additional therapy and activity space;
• acquired 14 adjacent acres in 1994 for the development of Park Village, which by 2010 included eight duplexes, a patio home and a congregate building with 42 apartments.
• expanded services to include Home Health in 1997, and respite care and adult day care in 2004.
• opened two “Park Homes” in 2006, each with 12 residents; the project won national awards for design.
• completed a transition to all private rooms in the nursing center in 2006.
• acquired 25 acres to the south of Park Village in 2009 for future development.
A changing approach
Beyond facility and program expansion, Janzen said a highlight of her tenure has been the “culture change” transition from institution-driven care to resident-directed care over the past decade.
“That simply means we help the residents do what they want to do,” she said. “That was difficult, because for so long a resident that needed a nursing home came to the home and our staff told them what they should do: ‘This is when you take a bath, this is when you eat.’ That’s just the way it was done.
“We have changed that totally to say, ‘We want you to decide when you want to take a bath, and when you want to get up in the morning.’ That’s part of our household model.”
Janzen said the resident-directed model appealed to her from the start.
“I actually dreamed about this for about 10 years before we actually divided our organization into households,” she said. “That has been a key reason why I stayed here that long.”
Since Gretchen Wagner’s appointment as administrator for health care in 2008, Janzen has been focusing in recent years on strategic planning for Parkside’s future development.
“We’ve identified eight phases,” she said with a smile. “It takes a lot of time.”
Janzen’s impact in the field of older-adult care has extended far beyond Hillsboro.
Through the years, she has served on various boards and advisory councils on the state and professional levels, and represented Kansas as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging in 1995.
One auxiliary cause has been particularly close to her heart: hospice care. Janzen started as a volunteer worker, then became a founding board member when Marion County Hospice was organized.
She continued her involvement when the Marion County organization merged with McPherson and Harvey counties, and later when that group merged with Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice, which now provides services to 25 counties.
Janzen was board chair for the organization when she completed her service in May of this year because of term limits.
“That has been important in my life—to help people die with dignity,” Janzen said. “It’s hard when (residents) pass away, but that’s why I’m so active in the hospice organization. I loved sitting with a resident and their family during the dying process, especially if they had faith.”
Her leadership role at Parkside Homes has been a life-absorbing assignment, Janzen admits. Even husband Marlin and their two children, Mark and Maura, were drawn in.
For example, whenever severe weather threatened the community, the Janzen family of four would head to Parkside to help move residents to safe areas within the facility.
“They grew up at Parkside in almost every department, including pulling weeds, washing vehicles and anything else their mother asked them to do,” Janzen said of her children “Maura later worked as a certified nurse aide.”
Janzen includes the entire Parkside community in her extended family.
“It’s easy to become part of the residents’ lives,” she said. “We’ve got a wonderful leadership team, a wonderful board. They’re very competent and they’ll do it better than I’ve done it. It’s hard getting enough good staff—we have a lot of good ones, but not enough.”
With retirement, Janzen said she’ll miss that extended family but looks forward to having time to focus more on her immediate family.
“I’m going to be gone for at least a year (from Parkside) because I don’t want to interfere,” she said. “I’ll probably do some consulting, or work with hospice in the future. But for a while, we will do some traveling. I’ve never really taken a lot of time for vacation, so I think as a family I need to do that now.”
A public reception to recognize Janzen’s contributions at Parkside Homes is planned for 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13, in the activity room. A program is planned for 2:30 p.m.