The Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce’s featured Member of the Month, John Beaman, general partner for the Bridges at Mission spoke with RGVision about his business’ services and how it has impacted the Mission community.
RGVision: What moved you to start your own business?
John Beaman: I was always interested in long-term care from when I was young. I used to go visit nursing homes and then when I became a banker, I used to lend money to long-term care. It was retirement communities, nursing homes, assisted living homes nationwide. So what happened eventually is that I got tired of traveling and I decided I wanted to start my own business in long-term care and I had seen assisted living homes in Wisconsin and I really loved the concept and I thought, this is where I would have my mother live. So I wanted to bring the concept down to the Valley. And we were the first licensed assisted living home, I think, in the Valley.
R: What is the mission of your business?
JB: Our mission statement is to provide safe, affordable care to the elderly and in particular those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease — all of it in a safe, nurturing environment. We try to provide a quality lifestyle for the elderly.
JB: We take care of the elderly who can no longer live alone, or shouldn’t, but don’t need skilled nursing care. My mother’s a great example. She’s a retired school teacher, she’s 90 years old, but she doesn’t cook anymore, so we provide those three meals a day, we provide assistance with daily activities, but of all of it, the most important thing we provide to the elderly is socialization. That’s what makes people well. That’s what enhances a quality of their life: being with other people. So the Bridges make a great effort to do activities. We have art classes twice a month, we have music therapy, our drum circle is twice a month, and this is on top of the daily activities which are done all day long. So this is the quality of lifestyle that we bring to our residents.
It’s contributed [to the economy] by, number one, we’ve created jobs locally .since we have something like 60 full-time employees between both of our assisted living homes, we pay a lot of money in taxes. By creating jobs and by bringing assisted living to the Valley, by bringing something new. At the time, it was brand new.
R: How long have you been in operation?
JB: 20 years. We started out in 1997-98 January 2000 is when we opened the doors to the Bridges at Mission. We just now have finally completed an expansion, where we’ve increased the size of our services from 40 beds to 61 beds.
R: In what ways has your business given back to the community?
JB: By providing quality life for the elderly, we also have Alzheimer’s support groups for the public, which is free and open to the public. It helps caregivers understand how to provide care to their loved ones, what they’re facing, gives them contacts in the community. We also have stress busters classes here. It’s a specialized class for caregivers. All of this is free and open to the public.
We also provide respite care. Respite care is where people can bring their loved ones here from one day to one month, where they can take a break or a vacation from care. We provide day care, which does the same thing. The Bridges has created jobs in the local community, and we’ve made a big attempt to teach the community about what it is to provide quality care for the elderly who’ve worked all their lives, and we want to make sure that in their last years that they’re happy, and they’re happy to be around others.
R: How do you help your employees develop their skills?
JB: We make a big effort at the Bridges to provide stable employment to our staff. If sometimes when we have residents who pass away and our occupancy might drop, we don’t cut the hours of our staff. We maintain a stable work environment for them. We also continually ask them: What do you need? What can we do to help you do a better job for the residents? Because we want you, the staff, to spend time with the residents. If you have any extra time, spend it with the residents.
And then, of course, we have ongoing training. We train all the time we have a specialized training once a month, in behaviors — how to deal with aggressive behaviors — and feeding, how to do activities, how to transfer so we spend a lot of time training our staff and we feel that training is paramount toward providing, again, quality life for our residence. Quality care.
R: What has been your greatest business accomplishment so far?
JB: My greatest business accomplishment has been building the Bridges, because we built it from scratch. And we had to learn as we went along. And we had to make adjustments in everything we did. And it’s been a continual education of how to treat the elderly with Alzheimer’s in a dignified environment. The goal of the Bridges is not to make people relearn things they have forgotten. It’s to help them keep what they still can do. And that is what the Bridges tries to do. We compensate the elderly in what they cannot do and support the elderly in what they can do. That’s really where our best efforts lie.
We give persons with Alzheimer’s a way to express themselves; whether it’s through art, whether it’s through music, we give residents a language a means to express themselves.
R: How does the partnership with the Mission Chamber and the Bridges make sense?
JB: What I have found here is that almost all of our residents come from the Mission area. Very few residents are from McAllen or Edinburg. Almost everybody is local. And so it’s like we’ve woven into the community of Mission and I think that we provide a terrific product for the city of Mission. It’s something they seem to be proud of. Because we’re proud of what we do. And we love what we do when people think of the Bridges, they do it with a smile.
One of the key benefits of the Bridges at Mission is that we get to know our residents and by getting to know our residents, we know their likes, we know their dislikes, and we tailor everything we do to help the residents.
We love what we do. We try to spend as much time with them, we actively engage them, whether we sit down with them one-on-one or we do group activities, everything at the Bridges revolves around the residents. All of it. And we do it all! Believe me. From taking care of our residents, to medication management, the socialization aspect — all of it is how can we take care of Mrs. Jones or Mrs. García. Everything revolves around them and that’s our mission.