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Meet the Resident – Bonnie Sommer

By Senior Living

We are pleased to welcome Bonnie Sommer, who joined the Castle Senior Living Family as a resident of Victorian Castle.

Bonnie says she’s “an open book” and can carry on a conversation with just about anyone. Here’s what we learned about her during a recent visit.


There were several big “firsts” for Bonnie Sommer in 2020. She turned 80-years-old in May and arrived at Victorian Castle around Christmas.

“It was such a fast move from where I was to here,” Bonnie recalls. “I was not happy at my other place, and my family and I were concerned that my former senior living community would close without warning. I was living day to day wondering if I’d have to move.

“My youngest son, Bob, did some research and found Victorian Castle. This place is wonderful. The people here are so friendly and helpful. My son wanted me to be close to him and it worked out. You turn a corner from his house and you’re here.”

Bonnie, who was born in Chicago and the oldest of three siblings, grew up in the Milwaukee area. She recalls her early life as an adventure with her father serving in the U.S. Army.

“In my time, mothers didn’t work. But, when my dad was away from home in the military, my mother took a job at a laundromat and raised us kids.

“We all had to look out for each other. You just have to keep working at it, even when things get hard.”

Bonnie attended Bay View High School, where she met Bill Sommer, who became her high school sweetheart. They later married and had three children, Bill, Sandy and Bob.

“Bill was in the U.S. Coast Guard and I was going to nursing school, but I was told that I had too much compassion to be a nurse so I had to find something else to do. I was disappointed at first, but we settled here. Bill was in the Coast Guard part-time and worked as a laborer at different factories. I worked at a drug store part-time and at various jobs in food service. I always enjoyed cooking.”

When we asked Bonnie what she loves most about Victorian Castle, she said, “The people. One of the residents here is a good friend. We hit it off so well that we watch football games together. I never watched football with my late husband, but my friend and I have the same kind of interests. If I had trouble with my TV, he would come and fix it for me.”

Bonnie appreciates the staff who stop by to talk with her. The people here take care of residents in good times and bad, she says, and you won’t go through any challenges alone.

“If I had a chance to move, I wouldn’t. I’m a queen and living in my castle now.”

COVID-19 Update 26


Dear family and friends of Castle Senior Living,

We cannot thank you enough for your perseverance and compassion during the Coronavirus pandemic. The past year has presented numerous challenges for all of us. We are happy to report no new cases of COVID-19 among residents or staff at this time.

The vaccination process continues to be rolled out and the clinics have gone smoothly. We have had four vaccine clinics to date. This week we will conduct three more clinics and three the following week. We will also begin administering the second dose of the vaccine to eligible residents and staff on February 12.

Even with the good progress, to protect the safety and well-being of our residents and staff, the following are still in effect:

  • Non-essential visitation is currently suspended at all locations. Visitation restrictions come directly from the local health department guidance. We will make exceptions for compassionate care at all of our communities. Video calls or virtual visits are still encouraged and available. If you’d like to schedule a virtual visit, please reach out to your community administrator. Castle Senior Living will revisit the visitation restrictions at each community once we complete the vaccination clinics and receive further guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Health.
  • All of our residents who tested positive for COVID-19 at our Birchrock, Sienna, and Emerald locations have recovered and are doing well.

 We continue to work with state and local health departments. We do have access to the rapid COVID-19 test which helps with testing quickly and controlling the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 cases continue to be at a high level in Wisconsin, so we ask everyone to be extra careful and remain vigilant. Please respect the safeguards that the CDC and the Department of Health have put in place to protect our residents from COVID-19.

The health and safety of our residents and staff remain our top priority. We will continue to be in communication with you as the situation evolves.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. Be well and stay safe.

COVID-19 Update 25 – Vaccine Information


Dear Castle Senior Living residents and families,

We cannot thank you enough for your perseverance and compassion during the Coronavirus pandemic. The past year has presented numerous challenges for all of us, but we are happy to announce that after careful planning and coordination, the State of Wisconsin was able to reserve enough of Wisconsin’s Moderna vaccine allocation to ensure all residents and staff at Assisted Living communities enrolled in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program could receive the vaccine and be protected against COVID-19.

What does this mean? Castle Senior Living residents and staff will soon be eligible to receive the Moderna Coronavirus vaccine (delivered onsite) at all our communities. There are many questions about this process, so we would like to take the time, in advance, to share what we know, answer some questions and alleviate some concerns you may have. Additionally, please use this helpful resource from the CDC:


Will the Coronavirus vaccine be mandatory for Castle Senior Living residents and staff at this time?

No, the vaccine will not be a requirement for residency at Castle Senior Living at this time. However, to protect all our residents and employees, residents and staff are strongly encouraged to receive the vaccine.

Our residents represent one of the most vulnerable, at risk, groups of people who are likely to become very ill, or die, from COVID-19. Assisted Living and Long-Term Care residents make up only about 1% of the U.S. population, but they account for over 40% of the deaths associated with COVID-19 in the U.S. By participating in the COVID-19 vaccination program, you play a vital role in keeping our residents, employees, and family members safe and healthy.

 Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

No, the vaccine will be given free of charge. The doses were already paid for by the federal government through taxpayer funding.

 Do I have to have health insurance to get a vaccine?

If you have health insurance, you will be required to provide your insurance information so CVS or Walgreens can bill insurance providers for the administration of the vaccine. If you do not have insurance, you may still receive the vaccine free of charge.

 When will the vaccine clinic occur?

We are waiting to hear back from our partners at CVS and Walgreens as to when the vaccine clinics will occur. The vaccine is available to Assisted Living residents and staff in the State of Wisconsin beginning January 25, 2021, so we anticipate vaccine clinic dates to be set in the next few days. Some of our communities have already been assigned vaccine clinic dates. As soon as we have more information, we will reach out to all our residents and staff at each location.

Each community will have three different vaccine clinics spaced between 24-32 days apart. Our trained pharmacy partners at Walgreens and CVS will be responsible for administering the vaccine and reporting the necessary information to the Wisconsin Immunization Registry and the CDC.

If you are a Health Care POA or Guardian for one of our residents, please be on the lookout for vaccine information authorization consent forms. Your community leadership team will be reaching out to all residents and responsible parties with consent forms and vaccine information.

 Is the vaccine safe?

We realize there are many concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, given that the vaccine is new technology and has been developed rapidly. However, we would not offer the vaccine to our residents and staff if there was a scientific indication that it was unsafe.

It is important to know that the Moderna vaccine is being held to the same safety standards as all vaccines. Multiple expert and independent scientific groups evaluated the safety and efficacy of the Moderna vaccine data before it was authorized for use. These independent committees include the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) and The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP.

If I have already had COVID-19, should I receive the Moderna Vaccine?

Yes, you should still get the Moderna vaccine if you have already had COVID-19. Getting COVID-19 likely offers some immunity from reinfection from the virus in most cases, but scientists and medical professionals are unsure how long that protection last. Because reinfection of COVID-19 is possible, it is recommended that people who have already had COVID-19 get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The one main exception is if you have received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma as part of a COVID-19 treatment in the past 90 days. If you have received this COVID-19 treatment in the past 90 days, it is recommended that the vaccination should be deferred for at least 90 days from the date of therapy, as a precautionary measure to avoid interference of the antibody treatment with vaccine-induced immune responses. If you are unsure if you have had this treatment, please consult with your physician.


We hope you will join us in this tremendous effort to protect our residents and staff from COVID-19. If you have any other questions, or concerns, about the vaccine or the vaccination clinic process, please do not hesitate to reach out to Diana Howell or your community leadership team directly.

Stay safe and stay well.

A Look Ahead: What 2021 will look like for Castle Senior Living

By Senior Living

We shifted and forged ahead through an unusual year, accelerating our focus on the health and safety of residents and employees. Our team and the entire Castle Senior Living community accomplishes incredible things when we work together. Castle Senior Living Vice-President and Owner Kris Kiefer says we’re on the path to achieve even more in 2021.

What are you most proud of at Castle Senior Living as we leave 2020 behind?
I am so impressed with our team. We brought on some dynamic people like Diana Howell, Mitch Reuter, Samantha Brenner-Carr, Meghan Sullivan and others to support our team strengthen our fight against COVID-19. 2020 was a definitely a year for us to excel in leadership, and I saw firsthand how we focused and stayed together. There was a tremendous communication exchange between our COVID-19 committee, the state and local health departments, the residents and families, and I credit the direction of our team for that.

We have been a strong leader in the fight against COVID-19 and implementing preventative measures. We created additional positions to help support the care staff and allow for uninterrupted time off, if needed. New protocols were implemented for cleaning, visiting, dining, and activities that help maintain resident satisfaction while improving health safeguards.

There are no restrictions on admissions at Castle Senior Living. New people are moving in and it’s been a smooth and successful transition integrating them into our communities.

How have the past nine months led you as an owner of Castle Senior Living to adjust the focus of your business looking ahead to 2021 and beyond?
The time helped us discover what really matters. To us, it’s treating others like family and providing exceptional care. We realize that a lot can change in a year, and recognized that it is important to slow down and show those around you that you love and care about them.

Could you share some of your goals for Castle Senior Living in 2021?
There are several exciting activities. We are creating a Medicare-Certified Hospice service at our company. This will enhance the quality of care for residents nearing end-of-life. We hope to be certified by the end of this year. Additionally, we recently completed our ‘Smile to Remember’ Memory Care program, which will be implemented in the coming months. And we are pursuing expansion opportunities in the Milwaukee area to provide better living environments for seniors.

Tell us a bit more about “A Smile to Remember.” What will this program mean for families and residents in need of additional support?
When we first shared our goals of the program, we received nothing but positive feedback from our residents’ families. They understood that it was Castle Senior Living’s priority to focus on dementia care. Our program really puts things in perspective and outlines how to improve care for residents with dementia. We integrated this into our orientation and training throughout 2020 to make sure everything was laid out in detail because we want to be the experts in the field. This is not just a one-time thing, but part of ongoing training that we can follow. Our priority is to make sure residents have the best experience and best outcomes from what we put together.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the industry in 2021?
I believe it involves overcoming the fear factor of COVID-19. It’s our job to continuously reassure people that we abide by safety measures to protect against all viruses and bacteria. Community living for older Americans is a tremendous benefit – from the social aspect, quality of dining and health oversight.

Visitation is an issue that’s hurting the industry right now with restrictions on who can see our residents. When those constraints are lifted, it will definitely help to welcome back visitors on a regular basis.

It’s that time of year for resolutions. Is there a personal goal that you want to achieve in 2021?
For me, it’s all about staying healthy, improving my personal health and fitness, and spending time with my wife and four children.

I hope to play piano more for our residents, something that I haven’t been able to do since last March. I want to get back into the communities and take some personal song requests. That would be terrific.