By Dawn Ledeboer on July 27, 2021
Moving to a nursing home or care facility isn’t something we think about often. One Kansas care facility is breaking this stigma by creating a place where residents and their families can feel more at home.
A couple in Marysville, Mandy and Trent Becker, combined their passions for healthcare and agriculture and created a unique memory-care facility called The Lighthouse. Nestled in the hills of northeastern Kansas, the residents at The Lighthouse can see the prairie grassland and a farm filled with animals right outside their windows.
STARTING WITH A DREAM
Mandy has more than 20 years of experience working in memory-support programs, which is how she found her passion caring for patients with dementia.
“I have been in long-term care since college,” Mandy says. “I fell in love with caring for this population, and I’ve really never left.”
Her husband, Trent, enjoys working with patients; however, his real passion is agriculture. He is a hobby-farming enthusiast and loves the outdoors. He’s been involved in agriculture from a young age.
“I remember working with farmers and raising bucket calves just out of high school,” he says. “I never thought I’d be into this though.”
Mandy grew up in Marysville and Trent was raised in Hanover. Mandy moved away from home for a while but found her way back after meeting Trent. At the time, they had some chickens, a bucket calf and a dream.
“All the right things that needed to happen, happened,” Mandy says. “God’s hand was definitely in this project.”
The couple bought their current property just outside of Marysville in 2016. The property was an ideal size, it was close to town and most importantly, it was agriculturally zoned. The Beckers combined their passions and skills, and after some renovations and modifications, they opened The Lighthouse in 2017.
The care facility is designed for those with all stages of dementia through end-of-life care. When a resident chooses to stay at the Lighthouse it truly becomes their home because many of its residents have a close connection to agriculture.
“All but one of the residents have a farm background, whether they were directly involved or married into it,” Mandy says. “This is how many of the residents grew up.”
From gardening to canning vegetables, getting eggs from the coop and sometimes helping with other farm chores, The Lighthouse strives to make residents feel at home.
“It has always been a goal for us to keep them connected to the land,” she says.
It started with chickens, then a bottle calf and before long, started raising their own beef. The Beckers also maintain a garden where they grow vegetables. They make many of their meals from scratch, and they encourage residents to help.
“We try to avoid foods that come out of a tube or a can,” Mandy says.
HOME IS WHERE THE GOATS ARE
There are currently eight residents living in the home — not counting the two bottle goats, Charlie and Frankie, or the other farm animals.
Patti Dollarhide regularly comes to The Lighthouse to visit her mother.“My mom has been in other care facilities before, but The Lighthouse has been stellar,” Dollarhide says. “She’s kind of a loner, and she will sit alone all day if you let her. The Lighthouse has done an excellent job of interacting with her and giving her such customized care.”
With 13 employees and only eight residents, the caregiver-resident ratio means residents get plenty of one-on-one care.
“There is such individualization, and they are able to tailor to the unique needs of each resident,” Dollarhide says.
Residents enjoy cooking, baking and being with friends and family. The small numbers mean they can take them into town for coffee, to the movie theater or to watch sporting events.
For those who lived on farms and ranches, The Lighthouse provides familiar sights and sounds from life on the farm or ranch. From the barn and the chicken coop to the sounds of the rooster crowing in the morning (and throughout the day), it makes them feel at home. When adjusting to living in the facility, some residents are confused or frustrated but the familiar environment can put them at ease.
When talking about one patient’s transition, Mandy says, “I can just say, ‘Your husband is in the field planting’ — and that clicks with her. She knows in that moment, ‘That’s why I’m here,’ and it brings her peace.”
The Lighthouse is truly unique, and there isn't a care home like it. To learn more about The Lighthouse and what they do, visit their website.