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A new attitude at Cedar Creek

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The first clue that things are different at Cedar Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is the new landscaping, highlighted by a pair of comfortable white rocking chairs under a shade tree near the front door. When you step inside, the changes are even more evident.

While the physical changes - new flooring, new paint, beautifully tiled shower room - are most obvious, it is clear that a new attitude has swept through the facility, influencing the staff as well as the patients.

Cedar Creek, which began at 159 Montague in 1965 as a privately owned nursing home called Purple Hills, has recently been purchased by Creative Solutions in Healthcare, which owns numerous care facilities throughout Texas. New Administrator Auston Clanton has been heading up a massive demolition and rehab of the structure and instituting new operating procedures.

Rehab Director Sue Buckley worked at the facility 15 years ago, along with several other key staff members. "We've come back," said Buckley, "and we're excited to be here."

Buckley started in Bandera as a physical therapy assistant and worked at the care center for about nine years. Management at that time began to have serious financial problems. Things like bounced pay checks put a strain on staff members, but many of them stuck with it because of their love for the job and the people they cared for. "Several of the CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) and LVNs (Licensed Vocational Nurses) here then are back now," said Buckley. "When things were so bad, we always said if we had the money we'd buy this place and give these people what they need."

Former staffers who have been more than happy to return under the new management philosophy include Jeanie Heidelberg, who started working in Bandera as an LVN, and is now the Regional Nurse in the company's corporate office. Jody Bellamy, now Cedar Creek's Director of Nurses, began there 15 years ago as an LVN. Assistant DON Misty Clark followed the same path.

Three staffers, CNAs Gloria Oranday and Esther Bermudez, and Activities Director Rosa Lopez, "stuck it out through thick and thin all these years," said Buckley.

"We're all proud to be here," said Buckley. "It's like we got that chance we wanted years ago."

"Bandera is home," added Clark. "It feels like coming home."

Buckley's excitement spills out non-stop. "Our first priority is to take care of the patients," she said. "And this company has compassion. They're investing in us."

That investment includes a brand new van for trips to doctor's appointments, better prepared food, furnishings that will highlight Bandera's Cowboy Capital image, and equipment.

"This company is okay with the equipment," said Buckley. "If I need something, I get it." Buckley is also getting a space for physical therapy that will almost triple her current therapy room area.

Taking care of the patients now includes daily rounds to deal with patients' concerns. "If we can nip it in the bud, it doesn't become a problem for the family to have to deal with."

A second priority for Buckley especially is reaching out to the community. "I want to do some programs for people to educate them about their Medicare benefits," she said. "It's so complicated that many people don't know their rights. You worked for your benefits and you deserve them."

Buckley also wants people to know that they don't have to drive to San Antonio to get their therapy and outpatient physical therapy. "We can do that right here in Bandera," she said.

After years in the newspaper business covering events at the care center, I had to confess to Buckley that this was my first visit that struck me as thoroughly pleasant. Despite construction going on down both hallways, the facility was clean, brightly lit and comfortable. I was cheerfully greeted by staff, and by patients.

I got to visit with one of those patients, Deborah Heron, who has been at Cedar Creek for eight years. Heron said her physical abilities were very limited when she first arrived and for the last four years she was unable to walk.

Under Buckley's direction, she now goes to physical therapy every day and faithfully does her bed exercises. "We get up and tootle around the hall," said Heron. "I can go 50 feet!"

The new attitude of the staff encouraged Heron to make the effort. "Sue said let's see what you can do. It gave me confidence."

Heron admits that the therapy is quite a workout. "At first I'd just take a nap right after therapy, but now I stay awake. I sleep all through the night, too."

Heron is also pleased with improvements in food service. "It's changed like night and day. And the presentation is wonderful!"

Heron is treated like family by the staff. "[CNA] Gloria and I text all the time."

Indeed, a feeling of family may just be the key to the new attitude sweeping through Cedar Creek.

"We all refer to this as home," said Buckley. "It's not just a job."

For more information about Cedar Creek and its services, call 460-3767.

Pictured: Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
Former Cedar Creek staffers Misty Clark, assistant director of nurses, and Sue Buckley, rehab director, have joined other returnees who are excited to be "home" again, doing what they love - taking care of the patients at Bandera's oldest care facility.

Construction crews have been busy giving Cedar Creek a total make-over. Staff and patients are looking forward to the nursing center's completely new look.