Thornton Manor celebrating 40 years; Open house is this Sunday

Thornton Manor Department Heads ... Left to right - Front row: Barb Byrnes, Tatum Iverson, Nancy Rethwisch, Julie Fossum, Cathy Mulholland, Carla Schnuelle. Back row: Sam Kuhn, Bonnie Weymiller, Diane DeLong, Angie Strong, Cheryl Fetketter, Tyler Plein. Submitted photo.

Current staff ... Left to right - Front row: Megan Adolphs, Lane Delaney, Becky Mettille. Back row: Kim Fruth, Anna Weighner, Jessica Miller. Submitted photo.

Current staff ... Left to right - Front row: Michelle Steele, Karla Jevne, Nicole Hauge, Nancy Rethwisch, Cathy Mulholland, Kim Miller, Kay Troendle. Middle row: Lisa Penrose, Cindy Callahan, Sarah Mitchell, Sue Saddler, Keri Becker, Renee Pillath, Ruby Lensing. Back row: Sandy Goree, Jan Pfiffner, Diane DeLong, Lois Radamacher, Mimi Picray, Stacie Leppert. Submitted photo.

by Brianne Eilers

Thornton Manor, located in Lansing, will be celebrating a big milestone for the facility this month - 40 years of service to Lansing and the surrounding area. An open house will be held at Thornton Manor this Sunday, April 23 from 2-4 p.m. in honor of the 40th anniversary.

Thornton Manor accepted its first resident April 21, 1977 and has continued to change and grow to meet the needs of the community since that time. The original facility was named for Dr. John Thornton, a well-known physician in the Lansing area.
Administrator Sam Kuhn noted that the nursing home has always been licensed for 60 beds. In 2003, the Thornton Heights Assisted Living apartments and the Thornton Manor Outpatient Physical Therapy Clinic were added to the facility. "It was a great way for us to expand our services to keep pace with growing trends," Kuhn said.

Thornton Manor was also fortunate to receive a gift from an estate in 2015 which allowed an update to all the floors, resident rooms and doors throughout the facility.

There are 80 people employed between all the current facilities, and Kuhn noted that figure includes full-time and part-time employees, including high school and college students. He also noted that around 20 of those employees have been with Thornton Manor anywhere between 10 and 40 years.

Two of those employees will also be celebrating 40 years at the facility right along with Thornton Manor this year. Kuhn also noted that the families of their staff are to be congratulated for their understanding of the commitment the staff gives to the residents. The facility is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and Kuhn knows this inevitably has taken staff away from family events or created a change in plans.

LPN Jan Pfiffner has been with the facility since it first opened. "I started the day before we opened," she remembered. She and two other employees came in April 20, 1977 to hang privacy curtains and make beds. She remembers that it was a "busy day."
Thornton Manor got its first two residents April 21, with a couple more coming in the next day. During her time at the facility, Pfiffner noted that she has worked all the shifts at one time or another, and enjoyed that she could have a work schedule that allowed her to be able to be involved in the lives and activities of her children and family.

"I have cared for three generations of some families in 40 years," she said. "Being from the area, I get to know families, as well as caring for friends, making new friends and caring for family members."

Pfiffner has seen many changes in her field during her time with Thornton Manor. "When I first started, we would get people who wanted to come here, and the residents were more ambulatory," she noted. She explained that changes to government regulations and restrictions generally have the more ambulatory residents living in assisted living or senior housing facilities instead of the nursing home.

Pfiffner also noted that in the past, restraints could be used on residents for a few hours. Now, they do not use restraints. "It's a good thing," she said. "It allows more freedom for the residents." Alarm systems are in place to alert the staff to any situations that need attention.

Pfiffner noted that while many people come to the facility for rehabilitation, there are also a lot of patients who are there to live out the remainder of their lives. "I try to make people as comfortable as possible," she said.

One piece of advice Pfiffner offers to anyone working in this type of industry is that you have to keep your sense of humor, as difficult situations do arise from time to time. "You can try to redirect someone or voice your opinion, but they make their own decision in the end," she said.

Office Manager Nancy Rethwisch will also be celebrating 40 years with Thornton Manor this year. Rethwisch started in June of 1977. "We had our 24th resident when I started," she said.

Rethwisch said she was hired to answer the phones and do administrative work. "Everything was handwritten at that time," she noted. "I worked four hours a day, to start out." She started out at a desk that was more out in the open, and now has her own office space.

Rethwisch noted that she has seen much more paperwork and documentation required since she first started out. She also commented that a big change she has noticed is in the residents themselves.

"Forty years ago, residents walked in here under their own power or with minimal assistance. They were more independent. Now, the residents in assisted living are what the nursing home residents used to be," she explained.

The office Rethwisch occupies faces the dining area, which she says has been remodeled several times. She noted that at the beginning of her career, most residents sat in regular chairs at the tables, but now, most are in wheel chairs or Broda chairs.
Residents are also living to be a lot older than when Rethwisch first started. "We have had several residents at 100 years old or more," she noted. She said that was not common in the 1970s.

Over the years, Rethwisch has had some of her own relatives at Thornton Manor. She noted that some families have had parents in the facility, and now those children are coming to live at Thornton Manor. She also noted that they have had husbands and wives living together at the facility.

Rethwisch also noticed that being from a more rural area, they get to know a lot of the residents or their families even before they come to Thornton Manor. "When families come to visit (the residents), it's really nice to hear them say that it's very homey here," she said.

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