Sharing Our Stories



“I’m not a writer,” cautions Patty Geiger.

Moments later, she shares a vivid poem that recalls making hot chocolate with her mother years ago.

Meet the Columbia Basin Writers, a group of senior citizens transformed into powerful poets and storytellers.

patty-smiling-upComprised of residents of Columbia Basin Care, a care facility in The Dalles, the Columbia Basin Writers gather once a month to read, write and share. Through writing prompts and conversation, members mine their past for stories and poems. With the help of staff and volunteers, writers are guided through games and exercises to rev up the creative process.

For those who have difficulty with the physical act of writing, volunteers take dictation and offer kind nudges. For some, just a little encouragement stirs a rush of memory, and emotion too.

“When I write, it’s from here,” says Sandy Pishion, placing her hands across her heart.

Studies have shown older adult literary programs, such as reading poetry and writing memories, can have significant impact on residents’ mood, concentration and social interaction. Research has also demonstrated improvements in short and long-term memory and listening.

sharing-our-stories-book-blur“Self expression is powerful, at any age,” says Drew Myron, Columbia Basin’s marketing director who leads the writing program. “While the focus is on writing, the real focus is on sharing our stories, and ourselves. There is great power in being seen and heard.”

While writing programs are frequent among youth, few programs are in place for senior citizens, and even fewer for those with dementia.

In April, in conjunction with National Poetry Month, Columbia Basin hosted a party for writers to read their words aloud. Against a backdrop of a sunny day, festive food, and music by local pianist Rule Beasley, the Columbia Basin Writers shared their work to a rapt audience.

“This has been the best hour I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Norm Vincent, a writer and natural storyteller, said of the party. “This really means a lot to me.”


Meet Our Admission Team


Thank you for considering Columbia Basin Care. As the region’s only community-owned, nonprofit, skilled nursing facility, we have a team of professionals eager to help fulfill your needs for long-term care and short-term rehabilitation.

For Admission information & requests, please contact:

Aubree Olmstead
Executive Director
541.296.2156 ext 3213

Leana Tennison
Director of Nursing
541.296.2156 ext 3223

Let’s work together toward our shared goal: health, happiness & safety for all.


Write On!



Join us for a special event to celebrate the Columbia Basin Writers, our very own creative writing group.

To mark National Poetry Month, we’re sharing stories & poems, memories & music — with snacks and good cheer. It’s free and fun, and you’re invited.

The Columbia Basin Writers is a group that meets monthly. Using creative prompts as a springboard to expression, writers, along with volunteer scribes, explore the senses, memory, experiences and more.

Please join us in celebrating the act of expression & the power of sharing our stories.




Keep Moving!


norm-exercising-side-view“I feel good when I pedal,” says Norm, as he works the stationary bicycle at Columbia Basin Care. “It reminds me of when I use to cycle. It gets the body and blood flowing, and helps my mind too.”

While our expert team of physical, occupational and speech therapists provide rehab care for short-term residents, Columbia Basin offers programs and activities to keep long-term residents active and healthy too.

The Restorative Exercise programs offer short supervised exercise sessions led by a licensed Restorative Aide. Exercises are tailored to individual needs, and take place in the second floor therapy room. The space is equipped with a variety of exercise equipment, including bicycles for strengthening and grab bars for balance exercises. Sessions typically run 15 minutes, two to three times per week.

marlene-and-carla-therapyMost everyone looks forward to their session, says Marlene Marick, the licensed Restorative Aide overseeing Columbia Basin’s exercise program. Approximately 25 residents take part.

“They get results,” Marlene says. “They feel better, with more strength, more mobility, and better balance.”

In addition, a variety of games and activities complement the structured exercise sessions. Bean bag toss, bocce ball, and whack-a-noodle (held in the Activity Room on the first floor) are excellent opportunities to stretch and strengthen muscles, and also improve balance and mobility — while having fun.

beanbag-toss-beverly“I need to exercise,” says Carla. “I need to do this.”

She’s always happy to head to the therapy room for a session of restorative movement.

“This strengthens my legs and makes me feel like I’m doing something,” she says. “You gotta move it or lose it.”


Easter Fever!


We’ve got all the symptoms of Easter Fever:  colorful eggs, silly sunnies, and contagious joy.

All week long we marked the season; we decorated eggs, created egg-cellent paintings, hunted for treasure, nibbled on candies. Together we celebrated the start of spring.


beverly-dying-eggs norm-easterglenndene-easterphyllis-with-eggs

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