By Michele Gerlach, The Andalusia Star-News

As SalLee Sasser-Williams and Stallion Sasser prepared to celebrate Andalusia Manor’s 25th anniversary this past weekend, they could hardly believe how much time has passed.

Their father, Dale Sasser, purchased Andalusia Health care in 1987. In 1990, he broke ground on a new facility, Andalusia Manor, which opened on April 2, 1991.

“It’s so hard to believe Andalusia Manor has been here for 25 years,” SalLee said. “I remember when there was nothing out here but a pile of dirt. Just flat land.”

Sasser family photo. Pictured on the left is Dale Sasser, founder of Andalusia Manor.

Sasser family photo. Pictured on the left is Dale Sasser, founder of Andalusia Manor.

The elder Sasser died tragically 18 months later, but his family has endeavored to keep alive his vision of quality care for seniors. In 2006, they added a wing to Andalusia Manor, and moved all of the residents from Andalusia Health Care to the newer facility. The Manor is now a 154-bed facility.

Things have changed in many ways.

“We are more regulated now than when Dad started,” SalLee said. “It’s crazy how much paperwork you have to do now. There has to be a paper trail for everything.”

Regulations also require certification before an employee can do the tiniest thing for a resident.

Twenty years ago, almost all residents who entered a nursing home became a long-term resident.

“Now, we have a revolving door,” SalLee said. “We put people back in the community.”

Short-term stays for rehab are now more common than they once were.

“We have so many more citizens now that are active in their senior adult years,” SalLee said. “Used to, people come to rehab because they fell. Now, we see more people here because of knee replacements, hip replacements, or even shoulders. It’s not just because they fell or had a stroke anymore. We can provide the extra care they know they need to get stronger to walk into kitchen, or even drive again.”

Stallion said, “We have occupational, physical and speech therapy – and swallowing is a big part of speech therapy for people who have had a stroke.

“The biggest thing, is to get them on their feet so they can get back home,” he said.

Andalusia Manor staff members enjoy the center's 25th anniversary celebration.

Andalusia Manor staff members enjoy the center’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Much is made of 21-day nursing home stays for those doing rehab. But 21 days is just a starting number, SalLee said.

“With Medicare, the magic number is 21 days, but that’s the point at which patients are reevaluated,” SalLee said. “We’ve had some 14-day stays and some that lasted longer.

“We want our residents to go back into the community better than when they got here,” SalLee said. “We want people to know we are not a typical nursing home facility. We are a family, and we take care of the health care of all ages.”

On Friday, the youngest current resident was 21; the oldest, 104.

“People don’t realize that,” she said.

Because of the diverse population, and the changing expectations of those residents, Andalusia Manor and facilities like it have changed, too. An ongoing renovation has been designed to remove the institutional, white-wall look, and make the facility feel more like a home.

“Our activities are not just bingo and dominoes,” SalLee said. “We have art classes, and we have residents who are able to do things that are computerized. Some of younger folks love video grades. We’ve upgraded a lot on the technical side to make wi-fi available to residents and their families.”

Stallion said there are residents who regularly have FaceTime visits with family members, and those who stay in touch with family and friends through social media.

“We have a resident now who uses social media a lot,” Stallion said. “When I come in, she already knows what I’ve been doing.”

People from Andalusia and the surrounding area enjoy Andalusia Manor's 25th anniversary celebration.

People from Andalusia and the surrounding area enjoy Andalusia Manor’s 25th anniversary celebration.

These days, funding is almost always a worry. For instance, the state legislature has sent a General Fund budget to the governor that does not completely fund Medicaid. Approximately 68 percent of the nursing home residents in Covington County – not just those at Andalusia Manor – depend upon the government-funded insurance for care.

Gov. Robert Bentley has promised to veto the budget, but no one knows what happens next.

“This is one of our biggest concerns,” Stallion said. “Our biggest thing is we need to know what kind of funding we have, both for our residents and our employees. It’s tough. But we strive on. We love what we do.”

Neither of them can imagine doing anything else.

“We appreciate everybody in the community giving us this opportunity,” SalLee said. “We thank them for welcoming Dad so many years ago, and for welcoming Stallion and I to step in and fill his shoes as much as possible.

“We want to be the best for Covington County,” SalLee said. “We want people to join our family, and be a part of us. That’s what Daddy wanted, a better place and a better home for people to call home. That’s what we try to do every day. It’s hard some days, when you have to worry about funding, and things are sometimes out of your control.

“But we strive to meet every need of every resident and employee we have,” she said. “ Family and friends of community, letting us be a part of their lives.

“We are blessed that our business is in Andalusia, Ala.,” Stallion said. “I don’t think Daddy could have gotten a better place to start his business.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the April 2, 2016, edition of The Andalusia Star-News. It is republished here with permission. Click here view the original article.