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by Mark Cheffey
Maple Lawn Nursing Home’s long-time administrator will be retiring later this year, and is in the process of preparing his successor.
Jeff Funkenbusch, who has been employed at the home for almost 32 years, including the last 21 as administrator, will work his last day Oct. 15.
At that time, Dave Stieglitz, a career long-term care provider with ties to the community, will take over the position.
Funkenbusch said he has mixed feelings about retiring, but admitted the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and the danger it poses to facilities like Maple Lawn, made his decision easier.
“I’ve enjoyed the staff I’ve had, and especially the residents,” said Funkenbusch, a local native, who has known many of the residents over many years.
“When you grown up in a small town, you know people,” Funkenbusch said.
He is also looking forward to doing activities he has not had time for because of his responsibilities as administrator.
“I had to give up hunting and fishing, because you never know when you’ll be on the call,” he said, noting it was still all worth it.
“I have to appreciate my family more, because they never asked any questions when I had to get up and leave or do something,” Funkenbusch said. “They knew I had to take care of things and take care of the people here.”
The pandemic has been the biggest challenge Funkenbusch has had to face especially when the stories came out of other long-term care centers being devastated early on and providing a wake-up call to all the others across the country.
It’s not only meant changing the way the home’s employees take care of the residents, but has also brought on the hard decisions to isolate the residents, who are among the most vulnerable to the virus, from the outside world.
“The hardest thing is telling families they can’t come in here, and trying to explain why their loved ones have not been in today or been in for a while,” Funkenbusch said. “And we’re still having to make sure we don’t bring it in.”
Despite also having to deal with staffing issues related to the pandemic, Funkenbusch said there are some positives that have resulted from it, including residents becoming more tech savvy in an effort to stay in contact with loved ones.
“They are not scared of Zoom,” Funkenbusch said, referring to the on-line meeting app that allows people to have face-to-face contact with multiple people from any location.
“Some of our residents have become pretty savy with their electronics,” Funkenbusch said.
The local community has always been supportive of Maple Lawn, and Funkenbusch said that support has not wavered despite the pandemic.
“I could always tell the community never lost sight of us,” he said, noting people have continued to send things to the home and provide any help they can.
While Maple Lawn life is starting to resemble pre-pandemic life in many ways–ministers are now able to visit residents and conduct services as long as they complete required training–Funkenbusch said it will reach a “new norm” that will include an increased emphasis on hand-washing and face mask wearing that helped prevent residents from becoming sick.
“Last year influenza was non-existant,” Funkenbusch said. “Why? Because people were wearing masks and hand washing.
“It’s very simple things we can do. I think that is going to be the new norm. We’ll be more aware of our surroundings.”
Meanwhile, Funkenbusch’s successor acknowledges the continued affects of COVID-19, but sees it as just one of the challenges of the profession he has chosen and enjoys.
“It’s not an impossible task, and having a challenge I think is good for everybody to have something to process,” Stieglitz said. “It’s about how are we going to fix this, how are we going to work through this.”
He also won’t let it diminish his enjoyment of interacting with the elderly.
“Even as a little boy, I have memories,” he said. “It’s always been a part of who I am. I’m not sure I would know how to function without that opportunity.”
Stieglitz, one of more than 20 candidates considered for filling the administrator position, said Maple Lawn has been on his radar for some time.
That’s because his wife, the former Paige Massner, is a Palmyra High School graduate, whose parent’s farm was just a mile away from where Funkenbusch grew up in northern Marion County.
“This is the facility my wife was most familiar with and talked about the most, and other places really weren’t on my radar,” Stiegitz said.
Also drawing him and his family to the area was to be able to be near his wife’s parents, who live in Quincy, Ill.
Stieglitz, who said he loves the small town community feel, said he is already becoming involved in the community and feels very welcomed as he prepares to take on his new responsibilities.
After growing up in the in northeast Indiana, Stieglitz earned a degree in accounting and then began working in long-term care, serving in administration at various facilities since 1996.
He and his wife met in Quincy and married in 1997. They have two children, a 19-year-old son, Reagan, and a 17-year-old daughter, Taylor.
The family attends Apostolic Christian Church in Taylor.