A Frontline Perspective from Assisted Living in Durand

Vibrant Life’s facility for assisted living in Durand has a new Executive Director. Jeri Birchmeier is an LPN and holds a Bachelor’s assisted living in DurandDegree in Health Care Administration. She has worked in both hospitals and long term care facilities.  Jeri lives on a farm, with her husband and two children, and has 300 cattle! 

Like Angie Hanson, our Executive Director in our Ann Arbor facility, Jeri started her career here at Vibrant Life just days before the shelter-in-place order. She had to wait 8 days for her COVID-19 test to come back negative before she could physically enter her new work place.

We caught up with Jeri to talk about her position, what a typical day is like, and how things have changed because of the quarantine.

“Vibrant Life has such a great reputation in this industry. I have been working in the long-term care industry for over fifteen years and when this opportunity became available, I knew it was time to come work for Dean and Rob.”

When asked why she chose the field of assisted living, Jeri revealed, “Memory care is where my heart is.”

Jeri started her medical career as an emergency room nurse. She then transitioned to orthopedics and eventually neurology, which also includes dementia. 

“I didn’t have grandparents growing up but I am particularly passionate about helping seniors navigate their new normal (the onset of dementia and participating in memory care.)”

A Typical Day for Assisted Living in Durand

It’s hard to talk about a “normal” day due to the quarantine, but Jeri’s daily duties include checking in with all of her staff to see how things are going. She inquires on how the residents were throughout the night and if anyone had any issues. She reads through the notes for all them and then she helps get everything ready for breakfast.

Jeri spends a lot of time talking to patients. Because of her extensive background in nursing, she has unique insights into the medical side of resident care. This includes corrective measures, offering suggestions, educating the staff, and helping families cope with the everyday struggles of having a loved with dementia. 

Jeri also runs the day-to-day operations of the facility including budgets, financials, and monitoring census (occupancy). 

Vibrant Life’s Lodge of Durand facility is actually made up of two buildings, referred to as lodges. One is dedicated to assisted living and the other is dedicated to memory care.

RelatedWhat’s Happening inside Senior Communities During the Virus Crisis

A Passion for Memory Care in Durand

Jeri revealed that she is really excited to improve the memory care facility to offer more therapy for residents with dementia.

“It is really crucial to provide activities that keep the mind and body going.” Jeri explained that most of the residents spent the majority of their lives working, either at jobs or as homemakers. So providing stability and opportunities for them to do the things they enjoy goes a long way to dealing positively with dementia.

“Things like a baby changing station, putting together small machines, sensory stations like rubbing sequins blanket, and even helping with cleaning, are all things our residents can do. The more we make them aware of their environment the less behavioral issues we have and often they require less medication too.” Jeri said.

How Assisted Living in Durand has Changed Due to Covid-19

Note: At the time of this interview, the entire facility (including staff and residents) had zero confirmed cases of Covid-19. 

Isolation. Each lodge is isolated and working, more or less, independently of each other, rather than together.  Certain staff are assigned to specific lodges and only work in one building.

Restricted Visitors. Vibrant Life, across all locations, have restricted all visitors and community support from physically entering the buildings. Upon arriving for work all staff members much ring the doorbell and answer seven questions.

Screening for Covid-19. Each staff member has their temperature taken and once cleared, they can come in. In addition, their temperature is taking at least one more time during their shift.

Outside Items. Anything that is delivered to the facility is disinfected at the door.

Cleaning. The entire facility is disinfected 3 times a day with bleach water. Staff are wearing masks at all times. There has also been a switch to using plastic utensils. 

How are residents handling the quarantine?

“The residents are lonely and the memory care patients don’t understand why these changes are being made.” Jeri also explained that even though this is the case, they are seeing less behavioral issues in general. This is mostly due to the lack of transition because families aren’t visiting. “Sometimes we see certain behaviors after family leave (from visiting) are we aren’t seeing that right now.”

Instead, the staff is utilizing technology like Zoom and Facetime to connect residents with their families during this time. They have started scheduling these times per resident so they can look forward to the communication and allows the staff to ensure every person gets a turn.

assisted living in Durand

Positive Outcomes in a Difficult Time

“Of course families are nervous, but they have been extremely supportive of our efforts. Our staff has been amazing and I feel like we are closer because of this.” Jeri said. “All the Executive Directors for the Vibrant Life locations have been really supportive of each other. We have regular group calls which is helpful.”

The staff is also in daily communication with the health department and there are emotional support groups available as well. The Shiawassee Health Department can provide counseling over the phone. 

“I think we are doing a great job here. I have a lot of tired staff but they are doing amazing. Our residents are happy and that is what we aim for. “

As Vibrant Life Founder and Co-owner Dean Solden says, ” we are delighted that Jeri is now a part of our Vibrant Life family here at the Lodge of Durand.  She has great knowledge and an equally huge heart.  She’s going to make a huge difference in  lot of people’s lives.  We’re looking forward to working with her for years to come.”

Would You Like More Information?

Vibrant Life is providing Virtual Tours of all 4 of our locations. If you or a loved one is in need of assisted living, senior living, or memory care, we can provide the answers and resources to answer your questions.

You can visit our website for information on each community.

We are also updating our site regularly with any new information about coronavirus that is urgent or helpful to our staff, families, residents, and the community in general. You can find that information here.

Additional Resources

Musical Minute – Social Distancing with Song!

Message to Families of Vibrant Life Senior Living Residents from Dean Solden