New Director Redefines Assisted Living

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When Payson Care Center's new executive director Mark Trangsrud started his career in the assisted living field in 1982, the facilities were still called "nursing homes."

"I think a common perception that people have is (long term care facilities) are where people go to die," Trangsrud said. "I've never felt comfortable with that."

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"I believe we have a responsibility to provide information and education to the community so that they understand the services available and can make good decisions from a financial, legal and emotional and care standpoint," Payson Care Center's new executive director Mark Trangsrud said.

Now, the medical model is changing to more of a social model.

"We are getting away from an institutional presentation to one that is like a village or community," Trangsrud said.

Armed with a business administration degree from Moorhead State University, his first management position in long-term care was as a laundry and housekeeping supervisor at a "nursing home" in Minnesota.

Trangsrud had been in the position just two weeks and was thinking this was not the career path for him, when he sat down to talk to a 97-year-old gentleman resident.

"He could tell I was uneasy, but we got acquainted and it was like listening to a living history lesson because we used to talk about all kinds of things," Trangsrud said. "His goal was to live to 100 years old. We talked about all the changes that had occurred in the world since he was born. It was pretty interesting."

As Trangsrud listened to resident's stories he relaxed.

"I realized that this was something I really like doing. This wasn't a place where people came to die, it was a place people came to live," he said. "I think a lot of times people are uncomfortable with end of life situations. They don't always realize that there is still life going on and the (residents) are still active in a lot of ways."

Trangsrud said he is glad he worked through his initial issues and become an administrator because he can create positive changes.

It is not about just showing up.

The residents and staff become like family and it is hard not to get close, he said.

"Over the years, I have had the chance to meet a lot of different residents and the exchanges I have had with them have been real rewarding," Trangsrud said.

Since he began his new position at Payson Care Center on April 17, he has not had a chance to pursue outside interests like hiking.

The job keeps him busy.

More families come to visit after hours and on weekends than in places he has worked in the past. Since Trangsrud doesn't get the chance to meet with them much during the day, he spends a lot of weekend time at Payson Care Center.

One of the reasons Trangsrud said he came to work for Life Care Centers of America, the Tennessee-based company that owns Payson Care Center, is that LCCA, believes in staff training to make certain residents are provided with a high standard of service.

"We want it to be a good place for people to come and work and feel like they are contributing to and being a part of the facility," he said. "This company doesn't just talk about it, they put money back into the facility to make certain there is adequate equipment and the environment is at the highest quality it can be."

The therapy area may be expanded so it has more usable space to accommodate the people who come to Payson Care Center from the hospital just for rehabilitation.

"We offer a full complement of therapy services," Trangsrud said.

Unlike 15 or 20 years ago, these days, a patient's stay is often short-term before they are discharged home.

There are tentative plans to reconfigure the dining area to more of a cafe-style setting. Computers will be added so residents can access the Internet and e-mail their family and friends.

"We want to develop kind of a Main Street concept where we have a small village where people and their families can come in, with perhaps an ice-cream shop, a gift shop and a library," Trangsrud said.

-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail clavalley@payson.com.

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