By Paula Spencer Scott | January 27, 2021 | Health

“You don’t look like you have Alzheimer’s,” people tell Terry Montgomery. “Well, that’s like saying, ‘You don’t look like an alcoholic,’” she says. “I’m just not as cognitively sharp as I used to be.” Montgomery, 63, was diagnosed with young-onset (also called early-onset) Alzheimer’s five years ago.

“I don’t look any different or talk different. I’m not deaf, so you don’t have to shout. I understand English,” adds the retired businesswoman of Duluth, Ga., who’s now on the advisory board of Dementia Action Alliance. “I hate the stigma placed on us because people don’t know any better. Once I met others like me, it took away my fear and phobia.”

People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia often hear outdated or simply wrong beliefs about their conditions, says Mayo Clinic behavioral neurologist Dr. Jonathan Graff-Radford. He tackles such myths and more in the new “Mayo Clinic on Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias” (written with Angela Lunde), a complete revision of a 2013 guide by Dr. Ronald C. Petersen. The update adds personal stories from people with dementia and their care partners as well new sections on brain health and living well with cognitive disorders. Among the misconceptions it’s time to toss:

Dementia is a problem for the old

Not exclusively, as Montgomery, who got diagnosed at 58, knows. Almost a quarter-million Americans are living with young-onset Alzheimer’s (developing symptoms before 65), which is why the Mayo book now includes a section on it. Another type, frontotemporal dementia, typically strikes between 40 and 65.”A lot of information focuses on those in their 70s. But people in their forties, fifties, and sixties may still work or have dependents living in the house, with different concerns,” Graff-Radford says.

If you have memory loss, you probably have dementia

It’s more apt to say, if you have memory loss, you’re human. Everybody forgets things; young adults blame sleep or stress and move on. Older adults are more apt to make the leap right to disease.”As folks age, it’s natural to have forgetful moments — losing your keys, trouble connecting a name with a face, coming up with a word on the spot,” Graff-Radford says. “There’s a cognitive spectrum, a wide continuous range with many shifting levels between just ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal.’”“Dementia teaches you to enjoy life.”

About 10% to 15% of cases of mild cognitive impairment (changes in thinking and memory beyond what would be expected by aging alone) transition to dementia every year. Dementia is daily memory loss that impacts the ability to function independently, like cook or balance the checkbook. Even this kind of memory loss can have reversible causes, including medications and sleep apnea.”You don’t go right from memory trouble to dementia,” Graff-Radford says.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are the same thing

“If I tell someone, ‘You have dementia,’ they say, ‘But not Alzheimer’s, right?’” Graff-Radford says. “Or if I say, ‘You have dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease,’ people look confused and ask, ‘What’s the difference?’”

Dementia, he explains, is the umbrella term for a syndrome of memory loss and other cognitive changes that interfere with everyday life. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Other types of dementia include frontotemporal degeneration, Lewy body dementia, and vascular cognitive impairment.People with dementia can’t learn new things

Actually, people living with dementia can continue to learn new routines, skills, and habits, Graff-Radford says, thanks to procedural memory, a type of long-term automatic memory that tends to be preserved well into the course of the disease. Motor memory, a.k.a. “muscle memory,” can preserve ingrained abilities (ride a bike, tie a shoe) and through repetition, aid the ability to pick up new ones (painting, dancing, trying new exercises). Dementia doesn’t shut down every thinking skill involved in learning.

People with dementia lose the ability to enjoy themselves

“Nothing could be farther from the truth,” Graff-Radford says. Very few patients are diagnosed so late that there isn’t plenty of their same pre-diagnosis life ahead. “We always ask patients, ‘What are the things that bring you joy?’ It’s critical to try to enjoy usual activities, realizing you may need to make modifications,” says Graff-Radford. A gardener may need to use photos to help remember plantings or a bridge player could have someone else keep score while finding the same pleasure in the activity. ” I’d say dementia teaches you to enjoy life,” adds Montgomery. “All the filters, the things I was afraid of, are removed when you focus on the present moment.”.

To diagnose Alzheimer’s, get ‘the Alzheimer’s test’

There’s no single diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s — not yet. (No, those brief cognitive screens that ask you to draw a clock can’t tell you if you have dementia.)

At Mayo, as elsewhere, doctors evaluate possible dementia by considering symptoms, medical history and relatives’ perceptions. Mayo staffers also perform several kinds of neurological tests to check cognitive functions and typically use blood tests and brain imaging to rule out other causes.

“There have been a lot of breakthroughs recently in terms of tests to measure the toxic proteins that build up in the brain through PET scans and spinal fluid, or now plasma as well,” Graff-Radford says. Given that Alzheimer’s starts in the brain 15 or more years before symptoms appear, these biomarker tests may one day identify the disease much earlier.

Dementia makes people more violent

Aggression is far from universal. “Everyone’s journey is very different, with symptoms that depend on them as individuals, on the setting they’re in, and on the anatomy of the disease,” Graff-Radford says.

As “Mike,” a 52-year-old Mayo patient quoted in the book, says, “Please remember that dementia is a disease, not a personality trait.”

Nothing can be done about it — so why find out?

The sooner a diagnosis is made, the more opportunity for treatment, Graff-Radford says.

Current therapies, including medications, can’t reverse symptoms but may slow progression. Coexisting conditions that may make dementia worse, from vitamin deficiencies to sleep apnea, can be treated.

While cognitive changes are still mild, a person can also plan for how and where they’d like to live as symptoms progress. Many of Graff-Radford’s patients choose to emphasize relationships and cultivating a sense of life purpose, he adds.

Far from being an exercise in futility, finding out the cause for concerning symptoms is “empowering,” Graff-Radford says. “Having dementia is just one part of who I am. It does not define me,” says “Dale,” another Mayo patient. “I can enjoy today and what I have now.”

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of more than a dozen books, including Surviving Alzheimer’s: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers, a series of interactive journals and health/family guides with doctors at Harvard, UCLA and Duke. Her latest is When Your Aging Parent Needs Help with Dr. Leslie Kernisan. A longtime journalist and former Woman’s Day columnist, she’s also an Alzheimer’s, caregiving, and brain-health educator.

Originally appeared on

John Hendricks interviewed Executive Chef, Andrew Nelson about Immanuel Lutheran Communities’ Green Restaurant certification.

John Hendricks interviewed Heidi Hickethier, the Director of Immanuel Foundation, about gratitude and fundraising efforts during a COVID year.

Where is Immanuel Lutheran Communities located?

Immanuel Lutheran Communities is located in Kalispell, Montana in the heart of the Flathead Valley. Located at the gateway to Glacier National Park and within minutes of all of the natural beauty the Flathead Valley, Immanuel Lutheran Communities is a perfect retirement destination. With its spectacular scenery, thriving historic downtown and excellent healthcare, it’s no wonder Kalispell has been rated a top place to retire by CNN, Where to Retire magazine and many others.

What are the key advantages of living in a community like Immanuel Lutheran Communities?

There are so many advantages, including an expanding group of friends, a maintenance-free lifestyle, a full array of services, educational and cultural opportunities, a holistic wellness program, and security and peace of mind for you and your family. This adds up to living longer, healthier, and better. And spending every day feeling connected and comfortable while living life your way.

This is the expectation of living at Immanuel Lutheran Communities. This community is filled with active, independent individuals. We share a bond of strong values rooted in faith, and our staff carries through those values, driven by the principles of honesty and hard work.

What is a Life Plan retirement community?

A Life Plan Retirement Community, formerly known as a Continuing Care Retirement Community, includes a combination of independent living, assisted living, memory support and skilled nursing services (or independent living and skilled nursing) available to residents all on one campus. Resident payment plans vary and include entrance fee, condo/coop and rental programs.

The Villas, an independent living expansion on the campus of Immanuel Lutheran Communities, will be unique in Northwest Montana, meaning residents will have priority access to assisted living, rehabilitation, memory support and nursing within the community should the need ever arise. And a 75% refundable entrance fee plan allows you to receive all of these services for a modest monthly fee, giving better predictability to rising health care costs.

What kinds of spiritual enrichment services are offered?

Your spiritual well-being is very important to us. While we are committed to Christian values, we also recognize and acknowledge that spiritual enrichment is an individual choice, and we welcome residents of all faiths. We have an active pastoral program with a full-time chaplain to provide one-on-one ministry to residents, hospital visitation, weekly devotions with staff and memorial services. Our chaplain also conducts weekly worship services, weekly bible study groups, Catholic communion services, and devotions among other services and programs. Learn more about our spiritual services here.

Why is Immanuel Lutheran Communities good for me as a single person?

Immanuel Lutheran Communities has many advantages for single individuals, including a sense of community and belonging, broader social network, and a place to continue to live a purpose-filled life. Services and maintenance-free living are also important. The security and peace of mind that come from knowing others are close at hand if needed is beneficial for someone who lives alone, as well.

Why is Immanuel Lutheran Communities good for us as a couple?

Couples can make their decision to move, plan for their new home, make friends, and enjoy the new lifestyle together. And should one member of the couple need assisted livingmemory supportshort-term rehabilitation or long-term care, it’s easy to see each other and to be together as much as possible. The reduction of stress and freedom from home upkeep is a big advantage for couples who want to really enjoy the retirement they have planned together.

What is the name of the expansion project at Immanuel Lutheran Communities?

Immanuel Lutheran Communities is expanding its independently living options with The Cottages, new patio homes with contract options that ensure priority access to a continuum of care.

There are various types of dementia, with some being more common than others. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia, accounting for 60 to 70 percent of all cases. People are affected by dementia differently, and it’s important to understand the condition if you, or a family member or friend, have been diagnosed.

Individuals with dementia may struggle to complete daily activities such as cooking meals, keeping track of belongings and traveling outside of their neighborhood. Some forms of dementia are progressive, meaning symptoms worsen over time. In some cases, dementia may be present long before any changes are actually noticed.

If you or a family member are experiencing any signs of dementia it’s important to speak with your doctor. This condition should not be associated with “senility,” or an infirmity people relate to aging. Memory loss is not an expected component of getting older.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms of dementia vary from person to person. However, there are common changes a person or family member may notice if a person does have the condition. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

A medical professional will look for two or more of the following functions to be impaired, and negatively impacting a person’s daily life, when diagnosing dementia:

There are circumstances where a doctor will be able to diagnose an individual with dementia, but unable to determine a specific type. In these situations, a person may be referred to a neurologist for further testing.

Treatment & Care of Dementia

Treatment varies based on the type of dementia a person has and their symptoms. If a person has a progressive form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, the goal is to slow and lessen symptoms.

Treatment methods for dementia include, but are not limited to:

Your doctor may prescribe medication to improve dementia symptoms, such as cholinesterase inhibitors, which help boost memory and judgment.

For more awareness about Dementia, read this “Understanding the Person with Alzheimer’s” by Jolene Brackey.

Types Of Dementia

Understanding types of dementia, treatment and causes is important if you or a family member are living with the condition. Below you will learn about three of the most common types of dementia and their differences as you explore supportive care options.

Alzheimer’s Disease

The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, is progressive and incurable. Typically, an individual will begin experiencing symptoms after the age of 60. However, the disease is often present long before symptoms are noticeable. Alzheimer’s can take 8 to 10 years to progress to its worst stage. The goal of treatment is to slow this progression.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include memory loss, difficulty solving problems and completing tasks, trouble with writing and misplacing objects. This form of dementia is the sixth leading cause of death among Americans.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia can result from a stroke, meaning symptoms may appear suddenly. Specifically, this form of dementia occurs when there is inadequate blood flow to the brain. Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia.

Symptoms of vascular dementia include disorientation, vision problems and confusion. Depending on which area of the brain is affected by insufficient blood flow, memory loss may also occur.

Dementia with Lewy Bodies

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is caused by an abnormal buildup of proteins, known as Lewy bodies, in the brain’s cortex. Lewy bodies lead to damage in areas of the brain responsible for functioning. DLB is a progressive form of dementia, and treatment aims to reduce symptoms.

Symptoms of DLB include hallucinations, difficulty walking, sleep and mood changes and memory loss. Lewy bodies can also be present in other brain disorders.

Knowledgeable Experts in the Field of Senior Living

Alzheimer’s Association

Department of Veterans Affairs


Flathead County Agency on Aging

Lutheran Services in America

Montana State University Family Economics

Kalispell Chamber of Commerce

Montana Health Care Association

Montana Hospital Association

Montana Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Senior Living Options for the Right Level of Care

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when faced with the extensive number of senior housing care types and styles available. That’s why we created this guide; to provide you with a comprehensive resource to explore the various senior living options, a guide that discusses the different senior living options available, spanning the full spectrum of choices.

Our desire is that you’re able to use this information about senior living to determine the best  option for yourself, a friend or a family member. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. One of our experienced staff members will be happy to help you find the answers you seek.

Older Adult Housing Options

There are several options for active individuals looking to enjoy the freedom of a social, safe environment.

Independent living is a senior housing option offering services and amenities to simplify a senior’s lifestyle.

55+ retirement communities are ideal for older adults wanting to downsize.

Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRCs) offers a “continuum of care” to residents.

Communities For Older Adults Needing Care Assistance

For seniors who require some assistance with activities of daily living, but still strive to live life independently.

Assisted living provides housing, healthcare and personal care assistance for seniors who require assistance with activities of daily living.

Nursing homes provide 24-hour assistance for seniors who can no longer live at home.

Skilled nursing is for individuals who require long-term or short-term care from a professional, such as a registered nurse.

Memory care is long-term care for seniors who suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia or other memory-related problems.

Short Term Care in Kalispell@2x

Short-Term Care

This is an option for seniors whose caregiver is unable to provide care for a period of time.

Adult day care provides care in a safe, interactive environment when a senior’s caregiver is unable to provide it.

Respite care is for seniors whose caregiver is unable to provide assistance over a short period of time.

Residential Care

This level of care provides assistance for seniors who can no longer care for themselves and are living in a residential setting, such as their home.

In-home care is for seniors who need assistance with everyday activities. Care is provided in a person’s home rather than a community.

Residential care homes provide 24-hour care provided in a residential setting.

Hospice care is a type of home care for seniors living with a life-limiting illness. Hospice care provides a comfortable environment for individuals as well as their families.

A home is important, and making the decision of where someone calls home is a very important decision indeed. Evaluating care needs and budget prior to looking for care options will make the search easier by narrowing down the overwhelming amount of choices you do have.

You may need to discuss housing options with a family member or friend more than once. What is right for them today may not be appropriate a year from now or even tomorrow.

Making a Decision About Senior Living

When assisting a family member or friend in their search for a new home, it’s important to keep them involved by:

You may need to discuss housing options more than once. What is right for them today may not be appropriate a year from now or even tomorrow. As care needs change, housing options may need to change with them.

We have instituted an Immanuel Lutheran COVID-19 Task Force consisting of key staff members to discuss protocols daily. Click here to visit our Foundation website and donate to our COVID-19 Response Fund. 
Immanuel Lutheran Communities
COVID-19 Dashboard

(Dashboard will be updated weekly)

December 30, 2020

We unfortunately can confirm that a second resident of Immanuel Lutheran Communities (ILC) has passed away due to complications from COVID-19. The resident, a 69-year-old female tested positive on December 24, 2020, and passed away at Kalispell Regional Medical Center on December 28th, 2020.

Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this tragic time. This is a reminder to all of us at Immanuel Lutheran Communities – our staff and our residents – of the very serious nature of this virus, and need for all of us to remain vigilant to protect those who are most at risk.

November 19, 2020

Holiday Recommendations in the midst of COVID-19

Department of Health & Human Services
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
7500 Security Boulevard, Mail Stop C2-21-16
Baltimore, Maryland 21244-1850
Center for Clinical Standards and Quality/Quality Safety & Oversight Group
Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services


To Nursing Homes, Residents, and Resident Family Member(s)/Representative(s),

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency (PHE) has been one of our nation’s greatest challenges and has especially taken a toll on the nation’s nursing home residents. CMS is committed to protecting the health and safety of nursing home residents at all times and especially during the challenges presented by the spread of COVID-19. We understand the emotional impact that separation from loved ones has caused. In September, CMS provided revised guidance for how residents can safely receive visitors in the nursing home. With the holiday season fast approaching, we understand that residents and their families will want to spend more time together. During the holidays, facilities, residents, and visitors should continue to follow the guidelines for visitation and adhere to the core principles of infection prevention, such as remaining six feet or more apart, wearing a face covering, and limiting the number of visitors in the nursing home at any one time. We also recommend that facilities find innovative ways of celebrating the holidays without having parties or gatherings that could increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission (e.g., virtual parties or visits, provide seasonal music, movies, decorations, etc.).

We also know that some residents may want to leave the nursing home temporarily to visit family and friends for the holidays or other outings. While CMS supports family engagement and a resident’s right to leave the nursing home, everyone needs to work together to take extra precautions to help reduce the spread of COVID- 19, which can pose an elevated danger to the health of nursing home residents. Therefore, CMS recommends against residents leaving the nursing home during this PHE. With the potential for a safe and effective vaccine on the immediate horizon, extra precautions now are essential to protect nursing home residents until a vaccine becomes available. Leaving the nursing home could increase a resident’s risk for exposure to COVID-19. The risk may be further increased by factors such as a resident’s health status, the spread of COVID-19 in the community (e.g., cases or positivity rate), or attendance at large gatherings. We encourage residents to discuss these and other risks with their families and nursing home staff. Nursing homes should educate residents and families of the risks of leaving the facility, the steps they should take to reduce the risk of contracting COVID- 19, and encourage residents to stay connected with loved ones through alternative means of communication, such as phone and video communication. For examples of ways to connect with residents, refer to memorandum QSO-20-28-NH. Should a resident ultimately choose to leave the nursing home, CMS is providing the following recommendations:

CMS has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on these recommendations, and we encourage you to review CDC’s webpage on holiday celebrations, which has more suggestions for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Note to nursing home staff: Staff should also use extra caution, especially during the holidays. Staff should follow the same recommendations for residents and families regarding gathering with their families and friends outside of work to protect the vulnerable residents they care for.

Additionally, while the above actions can greatly reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, we recommend nursing homes take the following actions when residents return to the nursing home:

As we progress through these challenging times, we express our sincere gratitude for everyone doing what they can to help protect nursing home residents. CMS’ mission is to safeguard the health, safety, and quality of life for America’s nursing home residents. While this year’s holiday celebrations will undoubtedly be different than previous years, together we can still find safe ways residents can enjoy the holidays with family and friends.

CMS Administrator

This alert is prepared as a service to the public and is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. We encourage readers to review the specific statutes, regulations, and other interpretive materials for a full and accurate statement of their contents.

November 10, 2020-

Protecting the wellbeing of all in our Community has always been our top priority. From the first COVID-19 Response Team meeting, we set out to take a proactive approach, and our efforts will continue until we have a vaccine for COVID-19. Our team has spent much time over the past year, actively planning for resource needs, increasing infection control measures, implementing travel and illness surveillance, screening and testing team members, and staying in communication with our staff, residents, donors, and family members.

We continue our laser focus on keeping those within our community safe, and we are using every source of guidance from federal and state agencies and the senior living/long term care fields. As we increase our vigilance, we will do all we can to minimize the impact on day to day life while continuing our proactive approach.

As we carry on our prevention efforts, we will continue to follow the below measures to protect our staff, residents, and greater community:

If you have any additional questions regarding our approach to COVID-19, please feel free to contact Carla Wilton, Chief Operating Officer, at

September 12, 2020-

For Immediate Release: Contact: John MacDonald 406-465-3558 or

Immanuel Lutheran Reports Fatality of COVID-19 Positive Resident

KALISPELL, MT – One of the 3 residents in the Skilled Care Center and Retreat of Immanuel Lutheran Communities who had previously tested positive for the Coronavirus and was in isolation, has died. She was preparing to be transferred back to her original residence when her health declined significantly. This resident, an 87 year old woman who was previously asymptomatic, was transported from Immanuel’s COVID-19 Quarantine Wing to Kalispell Regional Medical Center (KRMC) where she passed away shortly after being admitted on Thursday evening, while in the company of her loved ones. This death has been classified by KRMC as COVID-19-related, with other complications also playing a role.

“Although this resident passed away outside of our facility, we feel it’s very important to continue educating the public on the harsh reality that COVID-19 can transform in a matter of hours.” Cronk said. “This resident was in general good health – eating well, resting and comfortable, – when suddenly she took a turn for the worst. Her family is in our thoughts and prayers, as we mourn her loss.”

Immanuel continues to practice extensive Infection Prevention and Control measures to protect residents and educate staff to prevent COVID-19 from being introduced into our environment. The community continues to monitor and test both residents and staff each week. In addition to the testing and screening, ILC has taken extensive infection preventions measures.

August 24, 2020-

For Immediate Release:
Contact: John MacDonald 406-465-3558 or

Immanuel Lutheran Updates Resident COVID-19 Testing Results

KALISPELL, MT – One of 92 residents in the Skilled Care Center and Retreat of Immanuel Lutheran Communities who underwent nasal-swab testing for the Coronavirus last Friday has tested positive, but continues to show no symptoms. However, a second resident, whose Friday test came back negative, was hospitalized Sunday night for unrelated health issues and a test administered at the hospital came back positive.

“What we are seeing at Immanuel Lutheran Communities right now serves as a reminder and a caution about the serious nature and uncertainty of this virus,” Cronk said. “I am so proud of our staff for the measures they have taken to try to keep this out of our community – all the protocols, precautions, screenings and testing. But we still have had positive cases. It shows how unpredictable this virus is and the need for all of us to remain vigilant.”

Friday’s nasal-swab tests of residents were prompted by identical, mandatory staff tests earlier last week that confirmed three ILC employees tested positive for COVID-19. All of these staff members are in isolation at home while they recover. Two of those employees, a housekeeper and a maintenance worker, continue to be asymptomatic as of Monday. The third employee, a nurse, experienced some minor symptoms but is recovering well.

Cronk said no additional employees have shown any signs of the virus as of Monday. No other residents are showing symptoms, and all are in general good-health.

All 300 full- and part-time employees are screened at the beginning of each shift and receive nasal-swab testing weekly. The screening includes a temperature check and a series of questions to determine if they have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus while outside of work.

All residents living in Immanuel Lutheran Communities are being screened every 8 hours, and monitored daily for symptoms of COVID-19.

Cronk said all residents residing in the Immanuel Skilled Care Center and The Retreat at Buffalo Hill will remain in quarantine until ILC receives all negative results for 14 days, per the Health Department’s requirement.

August 21, 2020-

For Immediate Release:
Contact: John MacDonald at 406-465-3558 or

Immanuel Lutheran Reports Three Staff Tested Positive for the Coronavirus

KALISPELL, MT – Three employees at Immanuel Lutheran Communities tested positive for the Coronavirus this week during the required nasal swab testing put in place to protect residents.

Jason Cronk, President and CEO of Immanuel Lutheran, said the three employees were notified immediately upon receipt of the initial positive tests results Wednesday, and ordered not to come to work. The test results were confirmed late Thursday evening. The Flathead County Health Department was immediately notified, as were the families of all ILC residents upon confirmation of the positive tests. At the time the tests were administered Monday, none of the employees showed any symptoms, Cronk said.

“It is obviously a concern that we had positive tests among any of our employees especially when they did not show any symptoms, but due to the nature of this virus, it is something we anticipated could happen and we have prepared to deal with this possibility,” Cronk said.

Due to preventative measures already in place at ILC, Cronk said he is optimistic the employees would not have spread the virus to any residents. The employees who tested positive included a nurse, a housekeeper and a maintenance worker.

All 300 full- and part-time staff are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks and face shields or goggles. Additionally, staff are required to social-distance, and when possible, limit their time around fellow staff members to under 15 minutes. When serving residents, staff members wear required PPE, and the resident is asked to wear a cloth face covering to eliminate possible spread.

Additionally, every ILC employee is screened at the beginning of each shift. The screening includes a temperature check and a series of questions to determine if they have any symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus outside of work. All residents living in assisted living, the Lodge, the Immanuel Skilled Care Center and The Retreat are also screened every eight hours and monitored for symptoms.  Residents living in independent living are asked to self-monitor.  As of Friday, no employees or residents across the ILC campus showed any symptoms.

Following guidance from the Flathead County Health Department, residents of the Immanuel Skilled Care Center and Retreat will be undergoing nasal swab testing on Friday.  Results of those tests are expected within 48-72 hours and will determine next actions.

As an additional precaution to protect our residents, Cronk said ILC implemented a policy which began on Monday, August 17th, that requires all employees to have the nasal swab test each week.

“Our priority is to protect our residents and staff from the virus, while also continuing to maintain a great quality of life for those who call our community home.” Cronk said. “Although there are many restrictions on our “normal” procedures due to the pandemic, we continue to find new creative ways to support and serve our residents.”

Immanuel continues to screen staff before each shift and to nasal swab test each employee weekly and will proceed with following very strict infection prevention measures to ensure to safety of both residents and staff. All ILC staff receive daily updates and educational pieces on COVID-19, as to help them make safe choices while outside of work.

August 12, 2020-

For Immediate Release:
Contact: John MacDonald, 406-465-3558 or

Immanuel Lutheran Confirms All Residents and Staff have Tested Negative for COVID-19 following Recent Positive

KALISPELL, MT – Following a positive test of COVID-19 for a resident at Buffalo Hill Terrace on July 29th, Immanuel Lutheran Communities followed the state’s recommendations to test all staff and residents in the Assisted Living facility. All residents were required to quarantine until our community received 14 days of negative tests since the positive was reported. After two rounds of weekly testing, we received word on August 12th that all of these results are negative for COVID-19.

This is great news, and our community continues to be diligent in protecting our residents against this pandemic. Our visitation restrictions on campus will continue as recommended by both CMS and the CDC, and our staff is continually working on new engagement activities and opportunities to prioritize human connection for residents, while performing extensive disinfecting, and proper social distancing.

Additionally, we are relieved to report that the resident who originally tested positive is doing well, and her test this week also came back negative. She was deemed “not contagious” by the state on August 7th, was relieved from the state’s isolation then, but remained in quarantine until today when we received word of all negative tests.

Jason Cronk, CEO of Immanuel Lutheran Communities said, “Our community is extremely appreciative of the support we have received after the unfortunate news a few weeks ago, and we are very blessed to have such amazing staff who acted quickly to prevent the spread of this positive throughout our community.”

July 29, 2020-

For Immediate Release:
Contact: John MacDonald, 406-465-3558 or

Immanuel Lutheran Assisted Living Resident Tests Positive for COVID-19

KALISPELL, MT – Immanuel Lutheran Communities received confirmation on Wednesday, July 29 that a female resident in assisted living at Buffalo Hill Terrace has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation. She is stable and resting comfortably.

Jason Cronk, CEO of Immanuel Lutheran Communities, said the organization immediately initiated prepared response plans when the test was suspected positive on Tuesday, and has been working with the Flathead County Health Department on “contact tracing” to determine who the affected resident may have been in contact with. Any persons who were exposed to this resident have been informed by the Flathead County Health Department.

Immanuel Lutheran Communities also immediately informed residents and their families of the positive test and suspended activities at Buffalo Hill Terrace.

Cronk said the organization is cooperating fully with state and federal health officials to trace the source of the exposure, analyze potential contact to other residents and staff within our community, and prevent any potential spread. The community has been busy since March, implementing new procedures to prevent the spread of illness, and to respond in the event it did arise. These precautions include:

While it was hoped these actions hinder the virus, Immanuel Lutheran leadership has continued conscientiously planning and preparing to respond effectively for a time such as this.

“Our priorities are to provide aid and comfort to our resident and the resident’s family at this time, and to ensure that every possible measure has been taken to isolate this case to prevent further exposure.” Cronk said. “Since it is seemingly impossible to defend against this virus until we have timely and accurate testing and a vaccine, our COVID-19 Response Team has been in constant preparation. The past few months have equipped us for this very moment, and I am confident that our extensive training combined with our strong clinical team that will do all that we can to eliminate this virus from our Community.”

As Flathead County sees and escalation in cases of COVID-19, Immanuel Lutheran Communities continues to promote the importance of personal action to protect seniors and other vulnerable populations. Daily communications to the Immanuel Lutheran Community encourage all to follow CDC guidelines of practicing proper hand hygiene and social distancing to prevent the further spread of COVID.19.

June 26, 2020- 

Yesterday, the Governor lifted the order directing “no visitation” in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Please click here to view a copy of his new directive on this subject which relies heavily on the guidance that has been issued by CMS and CDC. It also includes a general guidance document that was produced by the work group on this subject.

This order and guidance applies to both nursing homes and assisted living facilities. From the standpoint of this state executive order, all of the guidance is just that – guidance.

Each senior living community is asked to develop its own plan for allowing (or not) visitation, in consultation with our local public health authority, and considering the status of covid-19 in our community and our ability as a senior living community to meet applicable guidelines.

Protecting the wellbeing of all in our Community has always been our top priority, and thus far we have been successful in keeping the virus out. Upon Montana’s phased reopening which began in May, we have seen another spike in cases. In response to our current situation and the governor’s most recent directive, Immanuel will remain closed to visitors at this time.

In addition to the patio visits at Buffalo Hill Terrace, we are working with our local health department to allow scheduled visits outside with a protective barrier for Immanuel Skilled Care Center. Once finalized, we will share with you the policy and procedures to reserve your visitation.

In closing, we would like to thank you all for your patience, understanding and support as we navigate this pandemic. Our mission continues to be about putting the safety and well-being of our residents first. If there are further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to:

Carla Wilton
Chief Operating Officer
(406) 309-5592

Dwight Shaffer
Clinical Administrator
(406) 250-5578

April 27, 2020-

Immanuel Foundation is participating in the Whitefish Community Foundation’s Day of Giving and Unity on May 5 – 6 as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.  Donations will help fund technology that will allow Immanuel residents to stay connected to their loved ones while keeping them safe as they socially isolate.  Learn more at If you would like to give, go to between 8am on May 5 and 12pm on May 6.  Thank you!

April 15, 2020-

Click the play button below to hear our CEO, Jason R. Cronk, featured on KGEZ Radio talking about Immanuel Lutheran’s preparedness for COVID-19!

March 25, 2020-

Protecting the well-being of all in our Community has always been our top priority. From the first COVID-19 Response Team meeting, we set out to take a proactive approach, and our efforts will continue until the last case of COVID-19 in the world has recovered. Our team has spent much time over these past weeks actively planning for resource needs, increasing infection control measures, implement travel and illness surveillance, screening team members, and communicating thoroughly and regularly. We continue our laser focus on preventing the introduction of coronavirus into our facility, and we are using every source of guidance from federal and state agencies and the senior living/long term care fields. As we increase our vigilance, we will do all we can to minimize the impact on day to day life while continuing our proactive approach.

Immanuel Lutheran Communities appreciates your incredible dedication to this cause. As we are now in a new phase of prevention, since having multiple reported cases of the coronavirus in the Flathead Valley, it’s time to implement new and more intensified measures.

We will see this through and emerge stronger. Again, we are appreciative of the understanding and efforts made by you all, and would like to encourage you to continue practicing hand washing measures as well as social distancing from others. We all need to do what we can to protect the well-being of the residents at most risk in our Community.

Additional Resources:
State of Montana COVID-19 Information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 Information

March 19, 2020-

At Immanuel Lutheran Communities we are committed to providing a safe environment for our residents, their families, and our staff. It is natural to be concerned about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and in an effort to keep you all updated with the ever changing environment, we have developed this webpage where current updates will be posted.

This website will be updated daily with the most recent information from our Immanuel Lutheran COVID-19 Response Team, and features a form which allows you to ask questions, and receive a response from a qualified member of our clinical team.

At this time, we do not have any cases of coronavirus, and we are ever vigilant and remain on high alert to stay educated on this disease, and the precautions we need to take should it present itself. We will continue to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), local and state health departments, and by our highly qualified and experienced Immanuel Lutheran Communities Clinical Team. 

Although faced with a challenging and ever-changing environment, we will continue to do what we feel is best for our residents and staff, to avoid the spread of this pandemic to our campus. It is our mission and ministry to provide an environment of support and loving care, and we intend to do just that, no matter the circumstances. We appreciate your ongoing support during this time, and look forward to a future, free of this pandemic.

If you have any questions regarding COVID-19 and Immanuel’s preparedness plan, please complete the below form and a member of staff will touch base with you shortly.

    John Hendricks interviewed Dwight Shaffer, Director of Rehabilitative Services at The Retreat at Buffalo Hill. Dwight provided an overview of the outpatient rehabilitative services that are available at The Retreat.

    by Vanessa Perez

    Millions of COVID-19 vaccines have made their way around the country to people in the 1A and 1B group. But it’s not the same story at for residents at Immanuel Lutheran Communities in Kalispell.

    The facility says a timeline showed they would get their first shipment from CVS in late December, and the second one was scheduled for mid to late January.

    But it’s almost mid-January, and officials say residents won’t get their first vaccination doses until Saturday.

    Immanuel Lutheran says the delay has something to do with CVS’s mile radius cap.

    “A gentleman from CVS told me there were 102 buildings that they had contracted with that were 75 miles in their furthest CVS, and so I think we fell through their planning cracks,” Immanuel Lutheran Communities chief operating officer Carla Wilton said.

    We reached out to CVS and haven’t heard back yet.

    The Flathead City-County health officer says since pharmacies are a federal partner. The department doesn’t have much information.

    “They’re literally requisitioning the vaccine right from the feds,” Flathead City-County Health Department chief health officer Joe Russell said.

    Wilton says long-term care residents at The Retreat at Buffalo Hill and Skilled Care Center will be vaccinated first.

    A group of four CVS workers will go from room to room and vaccinate the residents. She says there will also be a common room for staff to get their vaccinations.

    The assisted and independent living residents and staff will be vaccinated the following Saturday.

    “It’s been frustrating getting the clinic scheduled, for sure. It felt like it took longer than it should have,” Wilton said.

    Wilton says 179 Immanuel Lutheran residents have signed up to be vaccinated so far. They’ve had one resident say no.

    Click here to watch the news feature and read the full article.