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by Mark Cheffey
Maple Lawn Nursing Home’s new administrator grew up on an island more than 10,000 miles away, but now considers Palmyra his home and his new position his “dream job.”
“I love it,” said Jesse Soodrum, a native of Mauritius, an island 500 miles east of Madagascar, of Palmyra and the administrator position he took over in the middle of May.
Soodrum, who has lived here with his family for the past four years, said he is thrilled to be working at Maple Lawn, about which he has become familiar with over his time here.
“For the last two years, I’ve driven by here on my way to work, and every day, I say, ‘one day, I’ll be there,’” he said, having attained his goal of one day being a nursing home administrator.
“This is one thing I’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” he said. “And, to be able to be here and connect with the people here in the community is a whole different experience.”
Soodrum’s journey to Palmyra began when he made the 10,000-plus mile journey to attend Culver-Stockton College in Canton as a foreign student, majoring in psychology.
His family came to Hannibal soon after, and, upon his graduation, he joined the workforce, first as an insurance broker and, to continue funding his education, and eventually graduated from Lindenwood University in St. Charles with a masters in clinical psychology and counseling.
He then worked as a therapist at various places including nursing homes and assisted living facilities where, and from that experience, found his calling.
“I can inpact so many more lives at once, rather than during a one-hour session every week,” Soodrum said.
He obtained his nursing home administrator’s license in 2016 and has been working in the nursing home/assisted living industry ever since, leaning and gaining experience from the ground up.
“I’m not somebody who graduated and got a management position. I’ve seen it all, I’ve done it all,” he said, noting he has worked as housekeeper, and receptionist, has cooked and done laundry at facilities.
“I’ve done it all, and I still do he said. “And, I think its been valuable experience, because, when I’m making decisions, I can understand how it effects day-to-day living.”
He said he has also worked with the complete range of patients including high behavioral to geriatric and Alzheimer’s patients.
“So, it’s really cool to be able to implement all the things I’ve learned along the way,” he said.
Nursing home facilities, especially county owned, like Maple Lawn, are facing difficult financial times, and Soodrum said his main goal is to make sure it is on strong financial feet.
But, beyond that, he hopes to get away from the notion that nursing homes are just a place to leave a loved one or that it represents the end of life.
“I’ve always love the idea of having a place where we celebrate their life. That’s our philosophy here,” Soodrum said.
To that end, he wants to be able to find ways residents can stay more active and even have more say in what takes place.
For example, residents can now pick and chose a meal twice a month.
“I want to give them some control in their life,” he said. “I think that goes a long way for them and their life satisfaction really gets better.”
And, after residents have been isolated so much during the COVID pandemnic, Soodroom looks forward to having more connection with the community.
“These residents still have things to give,” Soodrum said. “They can still have fun and they can still interact with the community.”
Soodrum and his wife, Leanne, have three children, Gideon, Judah and Malachi.