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Caregiver Showcase: High School Students

By Senior Living

Here at Castle Senior Living, we have hired several fabulous Mukwonago-area high school students to work as caregivers at Birchrock Castle. These young people bring positive attitudes and smiles to work each day, and residents have embraced them as welcome additions to our team. The five teens recently shared about themselves and their roles with us.

Hailey Graul, 17, hopes for a career in nursing someday. She enjoys her position particularly because she loves making a positive impact and “being able to put a smile on residents’ faces.” Sage Kaiser, 18, aims for smiling residents as well: “It is important to me that each and every one of our residents feels important and loved every time I am working.” After high school, Sage plans to pursue a degree in occupational therapy, specializing in work with the geriatric population and/or stroke victims.

Rylee Radtke, 18, has been touched by the impact she’s been able to make, on both the residents and their families. When a resident passed away, Rylee found out that she had talked to her family regularly about Rylee. Says Rylee, “Seeing the family so grateful and appreciative of the love I had for the resident filled my heart. I want to keep making that impact where others can feel happy, loved, and appreciated.” Rylee is on track to achieve this goal in her desire to become a nurse anesthetist who works on army medical bases.

For aspiring forensic nurse Emily Graber, 16, the residents at Birchrock Castle make her job enjoyable. She says, “The residents always make me laugh, and they are genuinely the best. Each and every story that the residents tell me is amazing and hilarious.” Sage echoes the connections with residents as her favorite part of the position. She believes “they are so wise, and we can learn a lot from them and their experiences.” Future nurse Rylee Georgenson, 17, describes the residents as very kind and cheerful, saying, “I am always excited to come in to see my residents.”

If other young people are considering careers in caregiving, Hailey recommends having “patience and a want to help people.” Emily encourages individuals to especially consider work in memory care, saying, “Working at Castle Senior Living has taught me that caring for dementia patients is hard but totally worth it.” Sage shares that “the field is so rewarding, and you know that you are making a difference with your work.”

Rylee R. has discovered that a caregiving position can help build confidence and teach how to better engage with people—but most importantly, in such work, you can “fulfill a desire to help by meeting unique, amazing people” and make “a wonderful change” in someone’s life. And finally, Rylee G. offers some inspiring advice: “It is worth it! … I don’t feel like I am working. I feel like I am spending time with family. If you are doubting, make the jump and try it. You won’t regret it.”

Castle Hospice Pet Therapy

By Senior Living

Castle Hospice recognizes the benefit of emotional support that therapy pets can provide for our patients at end of life, and how that contributes to overall quality of life. Although many types of animals can be trained for therapy work, dogs are the most common in most settings. Unlike a service dog, who is not to be pet while working, a therapy dog’s main job is to be pet and enjoyed by those around them in a safe and trained way.

Liza Falk, our Hospice Spiritual Counselor and Bereavement Coordinator, and her dog Poe have completed their training and testing requirements to become a registered pet therapy team.  We are very excited to announce that Castle Hospice is now able to offer animal assisted therapy for Castle Hospice patients! Liza and Poe have already started bringing joy and comfort to those we serve.

In the hospice setting, individuals are often no longer able to respond as they once did to verbal stimulus, and having the tactile engagement with a properly trained animal can allow them to engage in another way. Liza has witnessed that petting Poe has calmed restless individuals. We’ve also seen individuals who were mostly non-verbal begin to engage in conversation with him. Others may miss their own dogs and pet therapy serves as a way to connect back to their memories and stories. For individuals who are hesitant to greet a dog, he will perform tricks, and often makes people laugh.

A therapy animal is an animal who has been found to be medically fit, and then certified through an oversite agency (such as Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Therapy Dogs International, or Pet Partners etc.).  The animals are trained in a variety of settings in order to react appropriately to differently abled individuals who reside in a variety of settings and may have a variety of needed medical equipment or mobility needs. Once trained they are tested extensively prior to being allowed to perform therapy visits.

If any registered pet therapy teams are interested in volunteering with us as we are hoping to continue expanding our Pet Therapy Program, please contact Liza at liza-hospice@castlewi.com or Yvonne at Yvonne-hospice@castlewi.com. 

Deficiency Free State Survey at The Grand Hills Castle

By Senior Living

We would like to announce and celebrate that The Grand Hills Castle had a deficiency free state survey!

This survey was conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and specifically the Division of Quality Assurance. This division conducts both announced and unannounced surveys of assisted living facilities in Wisconsin to ensure that state licensure/certification and home and community-based services (HCBS) requirements are met.

The surveyor evaluated The Grand Hills Castle’s performance and compliance with applicable laws and standards in the areas of resident rights, program services, nutrition and food service, physical environment and safety, medication, and staff training.

To find out more information about these surveys please visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.

Annual Resident Satisfaction Survey

By Senior Living

Castle Senior Living will initiate our annual resident satisfaction survey from March 1 to April 15.  The satisfaction survey is an important part of Castle Senior Living’s participation in the Wisconsin Coalition for Collaborative Excellence in Assisted Living (WCCEAL), and we use the feedback from these surveys to design wellness programs and customer service initiatives. This satisfaction survey is also vital to a statewide initiative to continuously improve the quality of service provided by participating assisted living provider organizations. WCCEAL is an unprecedented collaboration between:

  • Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Board on Aging and Long Term Care
  • Disability Service Provider Network (DSPN)
  • LeadingAge Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin Assisted Living Association (WALA)
  • Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living (WHCA/WiCAL)

Satisfaction surveys will be delivered to all residents and mailed to resident guardians or responsible party (if applicable). Completed surveys can be returned via the self-addressed stamped envelope directly to WCCEAL or dropped off at any Castle Senior Living community. All survey responses are confidential unless participants choose to disclose feedback. Surveys must be post-marked by April 15, 2023.  Residents who can respond to surveys, but need some assistance completing the form, will receive help from a social worker if they choose to participate.

We truly appreciate the confidence you have placed in our organization throughout the years. We hope you find comfort in knowing we are constantly improving processes to deliver quality care and participate in our 2023 satisfaction survey.

Meet Phyllis, Resident of Birchrock Castle

By Senior Living

Phyllis joined the Birchrock Castle family in August of 2022. While downsizing from her Mukwonago home was not easy, she says people can take better care of her here, which she could not do on her own.

“I am very independent,” Phyllis says. “I do most things myself. I always try to make my bed. I do the best I can.”

“Here, you can go around and do you own thing. Nobody bothers you about it. I love to exercise, so I work on my arms and legs mostly. I try to go several days a week.”

At 97 years old, Phyllis is the only one in her family who has lived this long other than a grandma who made it to her early 90s. She’s discovered how residing at Birchrock Castle has helped her live a better life.

“I have asthma so I have to get medicine for a breathing treatment. They come in and help me and are all very nice.”

Phyllis, who was lovingly known as “Phil the Pill” growing up with her three brothers, was born in Big Bend, but was raised in Mukwonago in a home on Grand Avenue that her father built.

“My dad was a carpenter and he had a shop in town with my Grandpa Frank,” she recalls. “I used to stop there after grade school and my grandma Maggie would always have cookies for us. At that time, it was during the war so it was hard to get things for baking.

“When I was older, I had to come home and help my mother with the house. I didn’t particularly care about that. I wanted to go out with my friends. We took long walks for fun and looked for wild asparagus along the railroad tracks.”

The second of four children, Phyllis was especially close to her brother Harvey, whom she lost at a young age.

“He was killed in a car accident when he was 17 and it broke my heart,” she says. “He was so smart and spent a lot of time building model airplanes in our basement. I still miss him.”

Her other brothers, Foster and Bill, served in the Army and Air Force. And Phyllis also did her part during World War II right out of high school.

“I went to Milwaukee and took a typing test to work for the government,” she says. “I earned a high mark so then they put me in a big room with other female typists. As the guys came home from the war, they asked if I wanted to be the head of the claims department. We had to file claims to see if a soldier was eligible for a pension.”

Phyllis met her husband, Dudley on a blind date at her friend’s New Year’s Eve party. With her independent streak and love for her work, Phyllis wasn’t thinking about settling down.

“We dated a while and he asked me to marry him. I said I wasn’t ready to be married yet or tie myself down. We just kept going out. I was 28 when I finally got married.”

Phyllis and Dudley married on April 30, 1949 at her church in Mukwonago. They had four children, three boys and a girl, and lived in Fox Point, Menomonee Falls and Mukwonago.

“I have three retired kids who live close by, so they can come to visit me. I have so many grandchildren that I cannot keep track.”

When Phyllis is not exercising, you can find her reading a good book, (a favorite is Gone with the Wind), or watching the birds feeding outside her window. She credits Robert Sheets, the Activities Director at Birchrock, for always keeping the feeders full so she can enjoy her feathered visitors.

When asked about her proudest accomplishment in life, Phyllis has this to say.

“I just kept on going. I made the best I could of it.”

What We are Thankful for at Castle Senior Living

By Senior Living

The Thanksgiving holiday holds many memories for Castle Senior Living and is among our favorite time of year for reflection and thanks. Looking back, we count our blessings as a family company with 30 years in business, and are grateful to offer independent living, assisted living, memory care and hospice services throughout southeast Wisconsin.

We are fortunate to have dependable, trusting and loving employees who care for our residents with dedication and purpose. They embody our mission of providing compassionate care in a loving home environment.

“Our employees come from different backgrounds and experiences,” says Kevin Kiefer, “but everyone has a story on what inspires them to care for others. We embrace their stories to reflect our mission and encourage a positive experience.”

Castle Senior Living is grateful to help people. We are thankful for our residents who make our livelihoods possible and our communities a home.

“I know we can and do help our residents improve physically and emotionally, which is so encouraging,” says Kris Kiefer.

Our residents’ families – those who often help make the difficult decision to remove their parent from a long-time home – face an incredible burden. We appreciate their choosing us for a loved one’s care.

“We are able to relieve the pressure felt by our residents’ children and families as they transition here, and ensure their parent will receive all the help, love and support they need,” Kevin says. “Families approach us and thank us for the difference we make.”

On the business side, we are pleased to have grown our 30-year-old company organically – staying focused on quality and customer service as the priority. Our growth and progress stems from the new construction at Grand Hills Castle in New Berlin a few years ago to our current expansion project at Birchrock Castle in Mukwonago.

“I’m thankful we can share our compassionate care with more seniors, as we welcome additional employees and increase our service levels in a larger, improved space,” says Candy Mings, Executive Director of Birchrock Castle. “We are accomplishing great things together as part of the team.”

So, as we take our seats around the holiday table in late November, we recognize and appreciate the trust our employees, residents and their families place in us every day. “Thanks-for-giving” us the opportunity to serve you. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

(Delayed) Grand Opening for Birchrock Castle Expansion!

By Senior Living

This event has been delayed due to construction delays to a TBD date/time.

Castle Senior Living is excited to announce the grand opening of our Birchrock Castle Expansion on September 15, 2022.

The community now includes an additional 20 units for the CBRF in an array of room styles from private suites to efficiency and one-bedroom apartments. Residents can choose a new, larger unit that fits them best. The original building continues to be remodeled to specialize in Memory Care and designed to showcase the beautiful wetland preserve surrounding Birchrock Castle.

When: Thursday, September 15th from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.*

Where: 210 McDivitt Lane, Mukwonago, WI 53149

Who:  All are welcome to join us for the celebration

Details: A ribbon cutting ceremony with the Village of Mukwonago will take place at 2:30 p.m. An open house will follow with drinks, appetizers and tours of the building and grounds until 7:30 p.m.

*The event date is subject to change based upon possible construction delays that may occur in the coming days. Any updates will be posted on our website and on our Facebook page.

Now Taking Reservations at Birchrock Castle: Interview with Candy Mings

By Senior Living

With the expansion of Birchrock Castle finishing up soon and the Grand Opening likely occurring at the end of August, we are thrilled to be able to start accepting reservations. We sat down with Castle Senior Living’s Candy Mings to find out more. Candy is the Executive Director at Birchrock Castle.

What are you most excited about with this expansion at the Birchrock Castle Community?
We now have the opportunity to offer care to more seniors. There’s such an incredible atmosphere here at Birchrock Castle. It’s the most special place I’ve ever worked. Our team is dedicated to bringing joy and excellent care to our residents. Now we can share that compassion and care with more people.

There is so much to love and appreciate about a new building – where do you start? Some of the apartments have kitchenettes and fabulous one-bedroom spaces. A wonderful amenity is the addition of patio doors so residents can access the outside and enjoy their own personal retreat.

When can those who are interested in Birchrock Castle begin applying for and reserving rooms?
Right now. People are already calling us about available spaces and asking questions about our waiting list and amenities. They’re visiting our website, where you’ll find an easy way to learn more about Birchrock Castle and paying a visit. If you reach out to us online it will circle back to me and I will contact you.

I spend a lot of time at Birchrock Castle. This place is a part of who I am, so I love picking up the phone and talking to people about their loved ones and their needs. A conversation also gives you the opportunity to know more about me. I was 19-years-old when I started working in this field as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), then as a nurse and now executive director with 30 years of experience in senior healthcare. I want people to understand that my skills and expertise can guide them on the journey to determine their loved ones’ needs and how we can meet them at Birchrock Castle. I will provide all of the ways we can help.

Why do you enjoy working at Castle Senior Living?
I remain dedicated to Castle Senior Living because I love working for a family-owned company. Kevin and Kris Kiefer’s vision is to deliver the best care possible to our residents. But they also focus on making caregivers feel important and cared for; that we are accomplishing great things together and are part of the team. I’ve never encountered that dual focus on the job before. Of course, the residents come first, but if you maintain a great staff, you will have great care.

We’ve grown into a family at Birchrock Castle – with a mutual love and respect between the care staff and residents. It may sound corny, but we enjoy each other. Healthcare can be a difficult field to work in every day and especially over a length of years. My staff laughs with the residents. We support one another and we get through the day. There’s a teamwork atmosphere. If someone is sick or running late, I have people willing to fill in or stay on shift longer. Someone has your back and supports you here. I don’t take that for granted. I have an open-door policy and believe in communicating with my team. There are no bad questions in my book. I love to teach and listen. My employees are my eyes and ears in this place. I am happy to hear their ideas and incorporate what we can do to improve.

What is it about Mukwonago that led Castle to expand there?
I’ve been with Birchrock Castle for almost four years now and in that time the Village of Mukwonago has grown exponentially – everything from hospital expansions, apartment complexes and subdivisions under construction. With that growth comes the need for us to add to our space and meet the demands of this thriving community.

What do you enjoy most about the Mukwonago area?
We are located in a neighborhood, which supports a homelike feel in the surroundings. The wetlands are right behind Birchrock Castle, with a great view of nature. When people take tours here, many choose us for their next home because they like how we make them feel. This community is filled with hard-working, everyday people. There’s a lot of pride in being able to experience compassionate care in their hometown.

How are the current residents feeling about the major changes to their home?
We’ve been in the throes of construction for many months, of course, but the overall vibe here is excitement. Our residents watch the construction process, keeping tabs on where the workers are digging, building and the various machines that make it all possible. It’s especially entertaining for the men, though some of the women have shared their thoughts on how the project should be carried out. It’s incredibly fun to watch the expansion unfold and we’re all looking forward to the grand opening.

Deficiency Free State Survey at Birchrock Castle

By Senior Living

We would like to announce and celebrate that Birchrock Castle had a deficiency free state survey!

This survey was conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and specifically the Division of Quality Assurance. This division conducts both announced and unannounced surveys of assisted living facilities in Wisconsin to ensure that state licensure/certification and home and community-based services (HCBS) requirements are met.

The surveyor evaluated Birchrock Castle’s performance and compliance with applicable laws and standards in the areas of resident rights, program services, nutrition and food service, physical environment and safety, medication, and staff training.

To find out more information about these surveys please visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.

Progress on Expansion of Birchrock Castle: Interview with Kris Kiefer

By Senior Living

With the exciting expansion of Birchrock Castle scheduled to be finished in mid-July and residents being accepted in early to mid-August, we thought we’d sit down with Castle Senior Living owner and vice president, Kris Kiefer, and ask him a few questions.

 

What does this expansion at the Birchrock Castle Community include?
We’re really excited about it! Construction is going well. There have been a few hiccups with the supply chain, but ultimately everything is on schedule and on track for a mid-July completion. We are adding an additional 20 units to the CBRF. These new units will allow us to offer an array of room styles: private suites, efficiency apartments, full one-bedroom apartments, etc. This allows our residents to choose a newer and larger unit that fits them best.

We are also remodeling the current building and adding on a back element to the building. Right now, it is a horseshoe shaped building, but with the addition it will be converted to a full circle. This allows residents to walk in the hallway, get exercise and makes it more memory care friendly. Additionally, it will be more secure so residents can enjoy an interior courtyard. We will be planting in raised garden beds so residents can enjoy spending more time outdoors.

The Birchrock Community wraps around some wetland preserves so there are beautiful views almost as if you are living with nature. Just about every new unit has a private walkout patio to easily access the outdoors and enjoy the nice summer days.

 

What are some new amenities that will be offered due to this expansion?
Many of the trends are similar to what you’d see in a new home. These elements include a large sunroom with big windows, high ceilings and natural light, a TV/theater lounge, library area, a salon with private beautician services, an activity area and a fireplace lounge. There are many areas for residents to interact, hang out and participate in activities. We’ll also have a farmhouse style kitchen with a coffee/juice bar.

Additionally, we’ll be providing chef-inspired meals with a larger culinary team, have a dedicated housekeeping staff to provide a clean environment and a larger team to focus on the health, well-being and activities for the residents.

This brochure covers many of the amenities.

 

When can those who are interested in Birchrock Castle begin applying for and reserving rooms?
You can start contacting us right now by reaching out to our executive director Candy Mings to get on our wait list. Interest is definitely out there and some have already signed up. We will give “hard hat” tours to families interested in the community so that they can take a look. We’ll wait a few more weeks to schedule those, probably mid-June, when things are closer to wrapping up inside.

 

What is it about Mukwonago that led Castle to expand there?
Birchrock has been active in Mukwonago for over 20 years now. We like the area. It has that small-town vibe and the people are just terrific. You combine that with a location that is close to everything, but still surrounded by 17 acres of nature and it’s a great fit.

The goal is to increase our level of service at the Birchrock Castle Community. With this addition, we can create a larger team to provide more support for residents. When residents need more advanced care, they can age in place longer and stay where they are comfortable longer. We will now have the capability of two-person transfers, mechanical lift transfers, insulin injections and other higher level medical needs if they would ever need it.

 

There seems to be a lot of construction on senior living communities. How much is the Milwaukee-metro market lacking in senior housing? Is there a shortage of living space similar to the current housing market?
COVID-19 delayed many projects and now you’re seeing them coming to fruition. Demand is only going to grow with everyone aging so that’s why we’re seeing more supply. Some senior living communities out there have aged and need updating. New providers are also coming into the market, providing nicer newer spaces and amenities, just like we’re doing here.

 

Are you hiring for positions at the Birchrock Castle due to the expansion? If so, when?
We already have some candidates in mind and will be hiring in the next few months. We are currently accepting applications through Indeed and on our website.

We have an outstanding team already at Birchrock and it’s incredible to see the longevity we’ve had with our people. It’s an amazing community because of the employees who are here. We want to keep building on that caring culture. Some of our care staff have been here for more than 15 years. Company culture matters to us.