Columbia Basin Earns Award


pinnacle-customer-service-awardColumbia Basin Care has earned the 2018 Pinnacle Customer Experience Award, achieving a Best in Class distinction.

Serving the community for over 50 years, Columbia Basin Care places strong emphasis on meeting the needs of every resident. In achieving the Pinnacle Customer Experience Award, Columbia Basin Care has met the rigorous demand of scoring in the top 15 percent of the nation across a 12-month average. The Customer Experience Award is given to care providers who have achieved best-in-class customer satisfaction standards.

The award is granted by Pinnacle Quality Insight, a national customer satisfaction firm that regularly conducts interviews with residents of Columbia Basin Care regarding their satisfaction levels.

Every month, Columbia Basin Care reviews these survey results in order to gain a better understanding of resident needs and make improvements when necessary.

“We work hard to provide excellent care for our residents,” says Aubree Olmstead, executive director. “This award is an ffirmation of the dedication and skill of our team.”

Columbia Basin Care, located in The Dalles, is the region’s only non-profit, community-owned, skilled rehabilitation and nursing facility. CBC offers the area’s only in-house geriatric nurse practitioner, along with a team of licensed physical, occupational and speech therapists who provide comprehensive rehabilitation and restorative services.


An Innovative Meal Program



With iPads and personalized service, Columbia Basin Care is reducing food waste, increasing meal satisfaction, and leading the way with an innovative nutrition management program.

Columbia Basin Care, a community-owned, nonprofit care center in The Dalles, is the first skilled nursing facility in the Pacific Northwest to implement MatrixCare MealTracker, a meal management software program. The change has brought dramatic change to a business providing over 200 meals a day. Implemented just a few months ago, Columbia Basin is saving time and money and, most importantly, boosting happiness among both residents and staff.

Behind the scenes, MealTracker works as a valuable tool for efficient and accurate management of dietary information, such as food consistency and preferences, recipe scaling, nutrition analysis, and cost analysis. Using this comprehensive data, residents enjoy meals that accurately reflect their specific nutritional needs and preferences.

tristan-takes-orderIn the “front of the house,” residents of Columbia Basin Care place their orders with Room Service Assistants who go room-to-room with iPads in hand, cheerfully presenting meal choices and suggestions. This one-to-one approach allows for questions and special requests. The Room Service team delivers meals directly to each resident, ensuring meals are hot, on-time, and accurate.

For the kitchen, the new program “takes the guess work out of food orders,” says Joe Fischer, Food Service Director. “In the past, routine orders were not accurate. Now we know each and every meal down to the ounce. We’re getting the residents what they want: hot food, on time.”

“With the personalized attention, we’re able to provide information on healthy food choices and quantity education,” he adds. “We now have more people eating, and eating better.”

An increased focus on accuracy is substantially reducing food waste and costs, he says. “We used to make 30 pots of coffee each day, that’s 365 cups, or five cups of coffee per person daily. Most of that coffee was not consumed,” he says. “It’s incredible the waste we’re eliminating.”

The savings is now re-directed to better quality food and the creation of new menus with increased resident input.

MealTracker has created a dynamic shift among staff, too. Previously, CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) were responsible for taking orders and delivering meals. Fischer, who started his career as a CNA, knows the valuable time this takes from nursing care. “CNAs are not waitresses. We want to take the load off CNAs,” he says. “Our goal is to have the kitchen take care of all food service.”

“It’s great,” says Sara Sullivan, CNA. “Now everything runs more smoothly and we have time to provide more direct care.”


Meet Our Resident Care Managers


rcm-teamWho ensures every Resident receives attention, compassion and medical action — and manages the nursing staff?

Resident Care Managers!

This team— known as RCMs — is equipped to anticipate and respond to medical, physical and emotional needs. Meet your Resident Care Manager Team :

From left:

Alea Paulus, RN, joined Columbia Basin in October 2017, and previously spent over a decade as a psychiatric nurse with an emphasis on geriatrics, working in acute care settings.

Mario Cardenas, RN,  has been a Resident Care Manager since 2017. He is a graduate of Columbia Gorge Community College and is currently attending Linfield College.

Priscilla Heimsoth, LPN, is Assistant Resident Care Manager. She worked several years as a traveling nurse, and at Oregon Veterans’ Home.

Julie Rockowski, RN, has worked in long-term care for nearly a decade. She joined Columbia Basin Care in 2017, and was previously employed at Hood River Care Center and Oregon Veterans’ Home.


Looking Good!


leanna-hairWe’re looking and feeling good, thanks to Leanna McDowell, our new on-site hairdresser.

Leanna offers cuts, curls, style & color for men and women — and serves residents, staff, and the community-at-large.

Her skill and enthusiasm is matched with warmth and kindness.

“I believe I’m here to help people find love and beauty in their reflection,” she says. “We put a lot of energy into protecting children but in our culture we don’t always put so much care and love into our elderly,”

Born in Portland, Leanna has lived all over the U.S. and now makes her home in Dufur. She is an instructor at Gorge Academy of Beauty in The Dalles and has a passion for color.

“I’m a hair artist, a colorist, a chemist,” she says. “I can turn the hair every color of the rainbow.”

Leanna is typically available Mondays and Tuesdays. To make an appointment, place your name on the reservation form located outside the Salon, located on the first floor, across from the Activity Room.

Leanna joined Columbia Basin last fall and has found a second home among new friends. “I’ve  been so embraced by everyone here, the residents, and nurses, and all of the staff!” she says.


Celebrating 101!


jean-chronicleColumbia Basin Care staff are seeing more and more residents celebrating birthdays over 100 — they currently have a resident aged 103 and last year one who was 105. Another resident, Jean Greene, turned 101 last week.

Greene, who friends say has always been no-nonsense in everything she does, was not feeling up to the decorative birthday crown, button and sash she was given the day of her party in the activities room; so her friend Bonnie Biddix wore them instead.

“I always talk her out of her moods,” Biddix said, “she’s not a fan of being cheerful except when you talk to her and get her laughing, then she forgets and gets goofy,” she said. “I act like a goose so she can’t mope.”

Lorna Jean Greene was born on Jan. 4, 1917, and spent her life in The Dalles. Her friend Florence Lulow recalls Greene telling stories about her family raising a garden, canning, and being pulled around the yard in a goat-drawn cart her father made.

Greene worked as a secretary at Tenneson Engineering for most of her life and had a “mind like a steel trap” for numbers, friends say. “She’s still a secretary,” Lulow said, commenting on Greene’s tidiness and businesslike attitude.

Greene was 28 when she married her husband, who was a soldier in World War II, friends said.

“He was quiet and she was quiet and they could have been happy like that until perpetuity,” Biddix said, “but he got an itch for someone else.”

They separated but when her husband got sick and went to Columbia Basin, “she took pity on him,” Biddix said.

Greene visited her husband at Columbia Basin every day for the 10 years he was a resident before his death. Greene herself has been a resident at Columbia Basin since 2011.

Friend and fellow resident Yvonne Hartung appreciates Greene for her sense of style and wardrobe, recalling a time when the two would exchange clothes.

“She has the classiest clothes ever,” Hartung said. Greene prides herself on her polished wardrobe and hair, even at her age as she suffers from dementia and physical problems that cause her pain.

Greene is an avid reader, friends say, recalling Greene sitting outside on nice days with the thickest book she could find.

Greene was never one for small talk or idle chatter, friends say, but she is appreciating both more as she’s getting older.

There were no children in Greene’s family and she is left without any surviving relatives; but she is frequently visited by Biddix and Lulow and connects well with the residents and staff at Columbia Basin.

“She is a kind hearted and loving person,” Lulow said.

— by Emily Fitzgerald
Reprinted from The Dalles Chronicle

A Season of Joy!


georgann-snowglobegroup-merry-1snowglobes-laurasanta-and-sarahjeannine-and-norm-accordionFa la la la la, fun for all!

coloring-groupFrom Thanksgiving to New Year, together
we celebrated the days with joy and cheer.

We decked the halls, dressed up,
played games, sang songs,
saw night lights, greeted Santa,
opened gifts, snacked on sweets,
feasted on treats, visited with friends
& laughed with family,

all while looking back
with fondness and

looking ahead
with hope.


Good Care Starts Here



Nestled in the sunny climate of The Dalles — just 1.5 hrs east of Portland, in the sunny east end of the Columbia River Gorge — Columbia Basin Care is the region’s only community-owned, not-for-profit, nursing facility for short-stay rehabilitation and long-term care.

Founded in 1964, we’ve served the community for over 50 years!

We’re an award-winning skilled nursing facility, offering comprehensive care that adeptly adjusts to the changing needs of residents, from moderate assistance to critical medical supervision. Our on-site Geriatric Nurse Practitioner serves as a highly-skilled primary care provider, along with our dedicated team of physical, occupational and speech therapists.

Freshly remodeled, Columbia Basin has clean and comfy private and semi-private rooms, and a beautiful courtyard and large park in which to gather and relax.

Our every day and every action is guided by our mission: To improve the lives of those we serve.


Harvest Party!


Our first-ever Harvest Party brought together all ages in a special afternoon event for residents, staff, friends & family.

It was a beautiful blue-sky autumn day in the Columbia Basin Care courtyard when dozens of people turned out for music, games, and mingling — along with pumpkins, pears, apples, cider, donuts, pies and more.

Pumpkin decorating was a big hit among young and old(er) and Lisa and Bill Nielsen, of music duo Willy & Nelson, set a happy vibe for friends and family to celebrate the season.

willy-and-nelson-1 tasha-with-daughter-paintinglittle-girl-paintingdivide-conquer-keep-apples-bananas-tomatoes-other-fruits-fresher-longer-w1456


People Before Profit


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can 
change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

—  Margaret Mead

Twenty years ago a small group of volunteers made a difference that has dramatically impacted The Dalles and neighboring communities. Three determined folks — John Byers, Linda Omeg and Mike Courtney — went to work transforming Columbia Basin Care into a rare and special thing: a not-for-profit facility providing award-winning medical care and comfort.

Today, Columbia Basin Care is the region’s only community-owned, not-for-profit, nursing facility for short-stay rehabilitation and long-term care.

Founded in 1964, Columbia Basin Care has served the community for 53 years and has operated as a not-for-profit business since 1997 — that’s 20 years! With a team of nearly 100 people, the company is one of the area’s largest employers.

Created by and for the community
Columbia Basin Care operates with a volunteer Board of Directors. The founding members: John Byers, Mike Courtney and Linda Omeg were later joined by Carla Chamberlain and John Hutchison — all of whom still serve on the board today. Aidan Health Services, a management company, provides oversight and support. While Wasco County owns the building and grounds, Columbia Basin Care is an independent compa­ny with local control and decision-making authority. As a non-profit, there are no owners or investors, and funds are dedicated to staff, equipment and facility upgrades, such as the recently renovated courtyard and park — all improvements that increase quality of life for residents.

Advocating for quality medical care in a comfortable setting, these board members have firsthand experience. John Byers rehabilitated at Columbia Basin after major surgeries and took part in the physical and occupational therapy services. Other board members have had family recover at the facility, too.  “It’s been around so long that almost everyone has known someone —  mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles — who has known Columbia Basin,” notes Byers.

“This is our community, our neighbors, and our families,” says Valerie Hiveley-Blatz, the geriatric nurse practitioner who serves as primary care provider for residents at Columbia Basin Care. “We get to know and care for every resident on an individual level. Every person here, from nurses to aides to the kitchen and housekeeping crew, wants what’s best for the residents.”

Reduced turnover, happy staff
In the U.S., nearly all nursing homes — 70 percent — are for-profit facilities, according to the Center for Disease Control. In Oregon that number is even higher: 80 percent of nursing homes operate as for-profit facilities, with just 17 percent operating as not-for-profits, and three percent are government-owned.

Most experts agree that a quality facility is based on staffing levels, and note that for-profit facilities — and particularly large corporate chains — may cut corners to save money and boost profits. Nurses working in nonprofit nursing homes are significantly more satisfied with their jobs, according to a study of 900 registered nurses working in 300 skilled nursing facilities. A similar study show certified nursing assistants are more satisfied and preferred working in non-profit facilities.

Aubree Olmstead, executive director of Columbia Basin Care, can see the difference. Under her helm, CBC has seen a dramatic reduction in employee turnover and an increase in job satisfaction among staff (measured through anonymous surveys).

Long-term care is an industry that typically sees high turnover — 60 to 80 percent is standard — and that affects both residents and staff. The answer, say many, can be found in non-profit care facilities, places that put people before profit.

“With our dedicated team, the care and concern for our residents is genuine,” notes Olmstead, “and that makes all the difference.”

Columbia Basin Care offers short term rehabilitation and long-term care, and features the area’s only in-house geriatric nurse practitioner, along with a team of physical, occupational and speech therapists. Columbia Basin Care is located at 1015 Webber St in The Dalles, Ore. 541-296-2156,

At 103, Laura knows the secret to a long life


HAPPY DAY: Laura celebrated her birthday with a party of friends and staff, including Aubree Olmstead, Columbia Basin Care’s executive director.

What’s the secret to a long life? Depends when you ask.

At 103, Laura Ashbrenner says it’s all about the love of friends and family. “I have good children, and good friends and family.”

Last year, at 102, she attributed her long life to beets. “My mother always made me eat vegetables,” she said, “lots of beets.”

Ashbrenner, an accomplished fashion illustrator and artist who has dedicated much of her life to capturing the beauty of the Columbia Gorge, turned 103 on October 3, 2017.

She was born in Battleground, Washington in 1914. After high school, she attended Oregon School of Fine Arts and built a career as an artist for advertising agencies. In the 1930s and 40s she worked as a fashion illustrator for top Portland retailers, including Meier & Frank department store. Her work frequently appeared in the Oregonian and The Oregon Journal newspapers.

 Edgar (Ed) and Laura, along with their three children (Vern, Janet, and Marcie) moved to The Dalles in 1957. Stunned by the unique landscape, Laura turned her focus to capturing its beauty. Many of her landscape paintings are on display at Columbia Basin Care, and her artwork is often seen for sale at online auction and collector sites such as ebay.

She and Ed would often take drives through the country, where Laura would gather inspiration. “I loved all the old barns,” she says. “Some days, Ed would go fishing and I’d paint.”

Laura and Ed were married 75 years. Ed passed away in 2013 at the age of 106.

Known for her sweet nature and quiet talent, Laura is an inspiration to many. Even now, she’s still painting. Just days before her birthday, she has a sketch pad in hand at Columbia Basin Care, a long-term care facility in The Dalles, Oregon.

What’s the secret to happiness? “Well,” she says, “you just have to enjoy every day as it comes.”