Fond Memories

Memory Care Home Helps Residents Relive Their Years on the Farm

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Spuds charmed residents of The Lighthouse when he came in to get warm during the cold Kansas winter. (Photo courtesy of Valley Vet Supply)

A special place in Marysville, Kansas, helps those with Alzheimer's or dementia stay connected to their farm and ranch roots. Known as The Lighthouse, the memory care facility was founded in 2017 by Mandy Becker and her rancher husband, Trent.

The Lighthouse had a special visitor during the record-breaking cold recently -- a baldie calf named Spuds, who charmed residents and reminded many of their years in agriculture. Aimee Robinson reported the story of Spuds for Valley Vet Supply, explaining the little calf was brought inside by Trent to save the newborn from the snow and ice.

Mandy Becker said reactions to Spuds were quite different, depending on the resident. While one farmer loved and petted Spuds, another reminded the Beckers the little one needed to get back to his mom. And one farmer's wife exclaimed, "What is he doing in the house?" Mostly, though, everyone smiled and loved the interaction. It brought up conversations and memories of years on the farm for all of them.

Valerie Starwalt, whose mom, Joyce, is a Lighthouse resident, said her mom worked for USDA for many years and had a passion for agriculture, fueled by growing up on a wheat farm.

"Mom's smile is there with every farm animal," Valerie shared. "Animals brighten her. I feel that when you're a nurturer, it stays with you forever. By finding whatever makes (residents) happy, it makes their adjustment into a nursing home 100 times easier. Seeing her with the animals -- dogs, cats, calves, sheep and cows -- you know those were things she loved, and that love never left."

Mandy Becker added residents have a diverse group of animals to spend time around. The Lighthouse has 30 egg-laying hens, a mini donkey, a horse, goats, sheep and cattle. All the beef residents eat comes off the ranch, and residents are often active in caring for the livestock, doing things like checking water, feeding animals and even gathering eggs.

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Victoria Myers