During one of the most trying times the local health community has ever faced, Kelly Hranac stepped in as the new Director of CountryHouse Residence for Memory Care in Grand Island. A member of the Agemark Senior Living family of communities, CountryHouse provides expert, loving memory care for individuals living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Hranac replaced Jessica Soucie, who left CountryHouse in April for a role as Executive Director of The Kensington in Hastings, another Agemark community.

A passionate advocate for individuals with memory impairment, Hranac brings years of long-term care and memory care leadership experience. Her educational background includes an LPN degree, Assisted Living Administrator’s license, and Dementia Practitioner Certification. She has served as event chair for the Grand Island Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease and volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association and many other local non-profit organizations.

Because she came from another local care community, Hranac’s first few weeks on the job were spent training from home. CountryHouse and all Agemark communities have implemented strict guidelines during COVID-19 to protect the health of staff and residents. After a two-week period of self-isolation and a negative COVID-19 test, she was ready to take charge of the community.

Hranac is excited for the new opportunity, even with the stress that COVID-19 has created for all health care professionals. “Despite the challenges we’ve faced since I’ve been here, I couldn’t be more happy for this opportunity. The team here at CountryHouse is strong and they care deeply about our residents. Our company has truly been on the forefront of the coronavirus battle. Knowing that seniors were most vulnerable to this virus, we implemented many precautions to keep everyone safe. It really shows Agemark’s commitment and how much they care about residents and for us as employees.”

At the time Hranac began her role at CountryHouse, the Grand Island area was considered a hotspot for COVID-19. The amount of cases in the community had increased, putting even more pressure on staff to ensure the health and safety of residents of the community.

Agemark communities were early adopters of safety measures intended to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. New policies implemented in early March were based on recommendations from the CDC, CMS and local health departments and included increased sanitization, screening staff and residents for symptoms, use of personal protective equipment, and preventing non-essential visitors, including residents’ own families. In early April, the company contracted with an outside agency to provide on-site testing and since then, CountryHouse has tested everyone in the community and continues to test all staff bi-weekly. In addition to providing outstanding care, the staff worked diligently to keep lines of communication with families open, through video calls, phone calls and window visits.

Although Hranac would have preferred to get to know families in person, she’s grateful for the tools at her disposal which helped facilitate relationships. “It’s challenging to build trust with families from a distance. We’ve communicated through countless phone calls, letters and emails. We started a virtual “Family Coffee” event held via Zoom when we can answer questions and provide updates about what’s happening in the community. We’ve even taken our Caregiver Connections Support Group online. Although virtual communication feels a bit different, we’re happy to keep providing this service for local families because we know that those who are caring for a loved one with dementia at home are looking for help and resources or even just someone to listen.”

With support from Agemark’s corporate nurse, CountryHouse has been able to admit several new residents during COVID-19. In addition to a pre-move assessment, CountryHouse tests all prospective residents for COVID-19. Hranac is supportive of the company’s persistence in helping local families. “Our mission is to help families with loved ones who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the pandemic, this mission doesn’t change. We know there are families that are struggling and we’re doing everything in our power to ensure safety and help those in need.”