New programs, new people
Willowdale residents, outpatients benefit from additional training
By Mark Sherry
Mark Sherry photo
Zach Ziesemer is the new administrator at Willowdale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in New Holstein. His transition to Willowdale is being eased by experienced staff members including (from left) Director of Nursing Laura Weber, Progressive Step therapist Melissa Voelker, and Referral Manager Wendy Jacobs.

New programs to help residents and outpatients and a new administrator are among the signs of progress at Willowdale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the past year.

Occupational therapists at the attached Progressive Step Rehabilitation Center have become certified in the past year in urinary incontinence retraining. Their certification has already begun to help therapy outpatients and both short-term and long-term residents of the New Holstein nursing home with the common but distressing challenge of involuntary leakage of urine.

Urinary incontinence almost always results from an underlying treatable medical condition but is under-reported to medical practitioners. Therapist Melissa Voelker with Progressive Step said help can come in a variety of ways.

For those people who have urinary incontinence issues, therapeutic exercises are often used to train or retrain muscles. If those exercises do not solve the issue completely, electric stimulation or biofeedback can be used to help make the proper connections between mind and body, Voelker said.

Diet can trigger issues

Sometimes urinary incontinence issues can be triggered by things in a person’s diet, including caffeine or cola drinks. “There has to be some lifestyle changes to make that effective,” Voelker said of retraining treatments, but it will be worthwhile to solve these challenges because of the difference that will make in terms of a person’s quality of life.

Occupational therapist Sue Vollmer, who became certified in urinary incontinence retraining, generally sees a younger demographic with this condition— usually in the range of 35 to 65 years old.

A second service added in the past year at Willowdale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is “pre-hab,” a common sense approach to people who are having planned joint replacement.

People who have scheduled a knee or hip replacement surgery can go to Progressive Step—usually one or two visits—to learn and do exercises to both prepare them better for the surgery and to familiarize them with exercises they likely will be required to do following surgery. Voelker said the pre-hab exercises are designed to not create additional pain for the person.

Learn before you need them

Another goal of pre-hab is to teach the person how to use crutches or a walker. Some if not many of those people have never used those items before, and it makes sense to learn how to do so safely and properly before surgery has been done.

Developed by a therapist near Eau Claire, pre-hab is working to provide faster and better outcomes for joint replacement surgery patients. “It just tries to take out the fear of the unknown,” Voelker said. “The concept has always been there, we just took it a little further. It’s new to our setting.”

Yet another advancement at Willowdale in the past year is the certification of three staff members—Director of Nursing Laura Weber, Mary Dietz and Ilene Stephany—in wound care. Their certification helps them better identify wounds and best treatment practices for various types of wounds. The improved skills of these staff members is allowing them to better communicate with physicians as to the best care for residents. The staff has reported some impressive success stories already which can be attributed to the higher level of training.

Not to be lost among all these new services at Willowdale is the facility’s newest addition—Administrator Zach Ziesemer.

The Hortonville native is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in Health Care Administration. Ziesemer had been going to school for a degree in the human resources area, but said, “I was always really interested in helping people out.”

Likes direction of facilities

Ziesemer, 22, said he saw the positive direction in which nursing homes are headed—creating a more home-like atmosphere—and that further influenced his decision to pursue a degree in Health Care Administration.

He interned during his senior year at a facility in Oconomowoc, then worked for five months as an assistant administrator at a 129-bed facility in Beloit. Willowdale is about half that size, and Ziesemer said his first impression is that it is “small and quiet. It’s very comfortable.” He said he finds the staff to be warm with a passion for what they do.

He added, “I enjoy residents coming in and making progress while they’re here. I like to see the different programs that are coming out, like electric stimulation.” He said he is a huge advocate of making sure everyone’s voice is heard.

“I think we have a good idea of where we want to go,” Ziesemer said of Willowdale, adding that room renovations and more restaurant-style dining are a couple of the improvements he would like to see at the facility.

When he is not working, Ziesemer— who recalls going to the Calumet County Fair in Chilton as a child to watch the horse pulls—enjoys distance running and is an avid marathoner and triathlete. He has moved to New Holstein and said he has full intentions of staying at Willowdale for some time.

Hometown employees help

Ziesemer’s transition has been made easier by having experienced employees around him, one of whom is Referral Manager Wendy Jacobs. The New Holstein native’s job entails sales, marketing and much more.

“I meet with anyone who many be influential in referring patients to our facility and that could go from physicians and surgeons to Mr. and Mrs. Smith down the street, and everyone in between,” Jacobs said. “I am involved in several organizations having to do with healthy aging, and the Chamber as well as Women in Management. I also help organize events and presentations that Willowdale participates in and hosts. I co-facilitate workshops, such as Living Well with Chronic Conditions, Stepping On, and MedWise. Missy and I also run one of the Strong Women programs at Willowdale.”

Jacobs added, “One of the best parts of this job is dealing with the people in the community that I’ve grown up in and still live in. It’s pretty awesome to have a discharge planner call with a referral from the hospital and when they mention the person’s name I can rattle off the street they live on. Or when I go to see the patients at the hospital, it’s a familiar face walking in to check on them.

“It’s a pretty diversified job, which keeps it interesting, she added. “One of the biggest things that I’ve learned working in this position is that Willowdale is not a nursing and rehab facility where people ‘go to pass away.’ About one-third of our residents are rehab patients that discharge. What I do love for our long-term residents in the small, comfortable atmosphere. It’s like one big family down here.”