Employees at Salem Place Nursing and Rehabilitation are proud of their community involvement and their long track record of working together.

Administrator Vickey Kirkemier has been at the facility for 25 years.

"We have so many years of experience of working together," she said. 

"We have a lady in the kitchen who has been with us for 20 years. My activity director has been with us six years, and she took the place of her mother, who had been here 18 years. Many of the employees have been here more than five years. This job is difficult, and there’s a lot of turnover in the long-term care industry. For us to be together that long, I think that’s unique."

She added, "We have families that the parent came to us 25 years ago, and now we’re taking care of the children."

When Kirkemier joined Salem Place 25 years ago, the facility had been taken over by the state and could only be sold to a reputable owner, she said. 

Michael Morton bought it and changed its name to Salem Place. That transaction took place on April 1, 1989. Then on April 1, 2005, the staff and residents moved to the new building just off Nutter Chapel Road.

"A lot of the employees take care of our own family here," Kirkemier said. 

"I have an uncle that lives here. A lot of us do (have relatives here). I think that says something about our care."

She said they are big believers in "culture change," a new movement in long-term care that gives patients more control over their lives. Kirkemeir gave some examples of how it works. Instead of waking patients each morning, the staff lets them decide when they want to get up, she said. 

Rather than serve identical meals on trays, patients are allowed to choose their food buffet-style.

"We jumped right on the band wagon," Kirkemier said. 

"It gives patients a little more control. We want them to have a voice about their lives. Just because they need help and nursing assistance — they’re still people. We want it to be an enjoyable environment where the people continue to thrive. You don’t just exist."

She said she believes the facility is welcoming and open toward children, pets and families.

"The people are what make it what it is. The residents are so much fun. They have their own relationships. They have a bowling team, and they’re always playing dominoes," she said.

She said the staff is also involved in the community. Owner Michael Morton supplied seed money for T-shirts for a fundraiser for tornado victims. Then he bought the shirts, and now the nursing home is selling them, Kirkemier said.

"We try to do all different kinds of things. We funded a pizza party for the Carolyn Lewis Elementary School running club. We also sponsored the Conway High School softball team. We want to be known in the community for our good work and community service."