Our team shares a passion for creating an environment where lives can be affected for good. We have a combined 100 years of experience in providing best-in-class services for our seniors and we are excited to be here in Alaska!
We are here to provide whatever assistance is needed to care for our Seniors; to educate and inform as well as providing services when our services are required. If you have any questions feel free to contact us.
I attended the University of Wyoming on a Volleyball scholarship where I earned my degree in Child and Family Services. Part of my graduation requirements was a 6 month internship program where I thought I would be placed in an environment to work with children. My ultimate goal was always to work with children and youth. Instead, I was placed in an assisted living facility helping to run the activities program. I had a great time and fell in love with those sweet residents but still did not feel it was the direction I should take in my career.
As luck would have it I had my oldest daughter the semester before I graduated and spent the next 20 years raising my family and being a stay at home mom. I coached club volleyball on the side as well as doing some catering, sold Pampered Chef and had several other flexible jobs I could do while raising my 4 kids. I was also highly active within my church and spent a significant amount of time coordinating and implementing week long youth retreats, working as a music chorister for the primary children and as an activities specialist for the women I served. I was even a cub master in the Boy Scout Program. Most recently I was working as a special needs para in an elementary school preschool. I loved working with those sweet little ones. I really felt like I had landed where I was supposed to be. Que a job opportunity for my husband in AK.
The whole move here felt surreal and I spent the first year just trying to settle in to my new reality and make sure my two teenage kids who came with us were getting the things they needed after such a big move. It didn’t take long to realize this was a home and state we were going to love. I felt ready to find my own purpose here in AK. I set about trying to find a job that I would not only be good at but that had meaning and purpose. The core of my nature is to serve and love and I wanted to find a job that was in need of my specific talent and abilities.
I knew when I walked through the doors at Aspen Creek I had found what I was looking for. My mother had a stroke when she was 62 and needed lots of care for the 16 years she lived with her new reality. 3 years before she passed my dad was diagnosed with ALS and again our world was rocked. So many questions about how he would be cared for how how his remaining time would look. Those experiences with my parents truly sensitized me to the plight of the elderly. The way they were treated by doctors and those they came in contact with all became a source of concern. Many times we had to fight for specific services and get help that no one felt was necessary. When I walked through the doors of Aspen Creek and met the staff and learned about their ideals and goals for the facility I knew it was a place I would have put my own parents and I wanted to be a part of it.
I am originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin and, yes, a “cheesehead at heart”. If anyone is an NFL fan then they will understand that reference. I moved to Utah in 2004 where my husband started his career in law enforcement and we grew our family. I have since lived in five different states to follow my husband while building his resume. We have four beautiful girls that love to challenge us daily and keep us on our toes.
I was a certified nursing assistant for seven years and this is where my love grew for geriatrics. My grandmother raised me so I was grew up with the mentality of "always respect your elders". I love to sit and listen to the stories our Seniors have to tell, their kind hearts and kindred spirits are touching and heartwarming.
After seven years I decided I wanted to push myself to be more, so I went to school to become a medical assistant. I worked at a local clinic for a few years and then I transitioned out of the medical field for a bit working as a DOT inspector, getting in and under eighteen wheelers. Basically, law enforcement for truck drivers. I always felt something wasn't right in my heart. This is when I approached my husband and we decided it was time for my career path to take precedence. I graduated from Nursing school in Utah in 2018. Following graduation I worked in a hospital where I gained a large amount of experience in all aspects of nursing. I then became a Unit Manager at a skilled nursing facility. It was then I realized working with the Senior population is where I excelled.
Little did I know things would come full circle for me. A few months ago my husband retired as a narcotics detective. We sold our home in Utah and hit the road to Alaska, a dream we had been talking about for ten years.
I researched similar positions in Alaska to what I had been doing in Utah and it just so happened Aspen Creek was in need of a nurse and Clinical Director! I am so excited to start this journey with you all and your loved ones. I am so grateful for the trust you place in Aspen Creek and in our team to take care of your loved ones!
My name is Stephanie Freeman and I am the Business Office Manager at Aspen Creek Senior Living. I was born and raised in Palmer, Alaska. After graduating from Palmer High School, I attended college at Mesa State College in Colorado then University of Alaska Anchorage. I took some basic classes, Biology courses and a couple of accounting courses. But since I couldn’t decide on a degree program, I discontinued taking classes. I enrolled in a Certified Nurse’s Assistant course through AVTEC in Anchorage and after graduating went straight to work using my CNA.
I have worked in many different types of jobs. In healthcare, I’ve worked in an urgent care, with a group of neurosurgeons, and in-home health care. I usually end up working in the offices or as the front desk person where I am able to put my computer skills and medical terminology to good use. Since starting as a Receptionist at Aspen Creek I have grown, learned lots of new roles and promoted to Business Office Manager. I strive to continue learning and bettering myself not only for my own knowledge but also so I can better help the residents in our community here and all of the family members involved in their care.
I cooked my first dish when I was 8 years old, it was Salisbury steak. I tried it in a local fast food chain back in the Philippines that sparked my curiosity in the culinary world. Growing up, I never had any formal kitchen training. Everything I did was through observation and self-study until I got my first cooking job. I have so much passion for cooking, but I did not have the resources to go to a culinary school until I met my mentor Luke Gilligan back in 2012. I trained with him about the management side of the job, I then preceded to stagiaire on fine dining restaurants around town for 2 years. I learned French, Italian and Asian cuisine from the top chefs of Alaska.
In 2014 I was hired as a Sous Chef at Crowne Plaza and got promoted to become the Executive Chef after 2 months. Since then I have been participating and able to win multiple awards from cooking competitions, the recent one was the “Soup R Bowl” soup contest and I also have been nominated twice as Kitchen Manager of the year at the Stars of the Industry (Alaska Hotel and Lodging Association). While I grow and establish my name in the culinary industry in Alaska, I still work hard to learn different techniques and styles of cooking. For me learning will never stop. I try to learn from everyone, be it on a professional kitchen or home kitchen. I get great pleasure out of seeing happy faces enjoying the meal that I prepared.
As a chef, my goal is to serve the best plate possible considering nutrition demands and dietary restrictions. Working for our seniors gives me a sense of fulfillment. Because I was not given the opportunity to do what I do best to my own grandparents.
My family is what drives me to become better in everything I do. My wife, as my support and my kids are my greatest critic. Other than being a family man and a chef, I am also a musician and an artist. I think combining all my talents is what separates me from the other chefs out there. My love for cooking, passion for music, plus the soul from my art, I think we got the perfect recipe.
I am grateful to be part of the Aspen Creek team and I give 100% to provide the best dining experience for our residents.
My name is Melissa Tanner. I was born and raised in Western Nebraska, in a small country town. I had the privilege of growing up with a large extended family that enjoyed spending time together. My grandparent’s house was a go to location for the whole family. We referred to their place as “The Farm” and everyone would get together for every holiday, birthday, and many warm summer days. There were so many acres, animals, and cousins to play with. Growing up in a loving and wonderful family made life amazing. Everyone was welcome at Grandma’s house, especially if you didn’t have a family of your own. I came by my need to help others naturally. My mother and grandmother are both social workers and foster parents. My grandma Stout was a nurse and both of my brothers are police officers. I was blessed to be raised by such wonderful parents, who taught me that hard work and dedication pay off. My father is a truck driver so I believe I got my love to travel from him. I have been to all 50 states, most multiple times.
I didn’t see it at the time, but looking back I would say that God was leading me to the medical field. I got my Certified Nursing Assistant license when I was 16 and started working at a small nursing home outside of North Platte, Nebraska. We moved to Alaska and I continued my medical career here over the years. I have worked in many different settings; home health, hospitals, assisted living, and nursing homes. I was blessed with a handsome baby boy that became my whole world. After seven years in Alaska we moved back to Nebraska to be on “The Farm” with my grandma. Sometimes the soul needs to feel the comforts of home to reset and revive itself. I met my wonderful husband and his three little boys and just absolutely fell head over heels for those four. We were blessed with another little boy and my life then changed. I put my career on hold and became a stay at home mom to raise our wonderful boys. We picked up and moved to Georgia and took on the adventure of a new business. Soon our youngest made his appearance into the bright world. A few years passed and the boys were growing so fast, Riley (17), Joel (15), Gavin (15), Sylar (9), Tripp (4), and Titan (2). I loved being a stay at home mom and being there for my boys but my purpose to care for the elderly was calling me, so we made the decision to move to Alaska.
Beth, a long time friend and coworker, asked me if I would be interested in joining the Aspen Creek Team. I started working as a caregiver but because of my dedication and hard work I was quickly promoted to be the Clinical Coordinator.
After attending school at Boise State University, my early career was spent working in construction, initially framing homes and then as a custom home builder, until the summer of 2009 when I had an experience that would change the course of my life.
Just like everyone working in the construction industry, the great recession starting in 2007 affected my business. In the summer of 2009, I was working on a small remodel project and was self-performing some of the work. On the last day, while putting up the last piece of material I was walking across a metal roof and it started to rain. I slipped, fell two stories and hit my head on a landscaping rock. A week later I awoke in the hospital, tried to get out of bed to go to the bathroom, fell over and didn’t understand why I couldn’t walk; I discovered I had suffered a traumatic brain injury. After a month of physical therapy, learning again to write, walk and accomplish normal everyday tasks, I was sent home with a walker to continue recovery on my own.
I quickly recognized that I would not be able to continue, at least for some time, building homes and I began to search for other ways I could provide for my family. Due to the experiences I had during my recovery and the recognition that without excellent health care providers I would not be alive, I was drawn to the health care field. After searching for employment and additional recovery time, I was given the opportunity to do some part-time work for a health care company operating skilled nursing facilities. I worked hard, did a good job, and the work load progressed into full-time employment and eventually I became the Director of Information Technology for Advanced Health Care.
During my time as Director of IT, I managed information technology for fourteen locations across the Western United States, created a proprietary electronic health record application, developed public facing websites, and built business specific, mission-critical applications.
Throughout my experiences, I have maintained the position that technology is a tool which should be used to improve processes making individuals more efficient so that, specifically in health care, providers can spend their valuable time with patients in ways that effect positive change; I believe that while technology can be an invaluable tool, it cannot and should not replace the personal relationships created through one-on-one interactions.
I am excited to be back in Alaska and to utilize the experiences that I have had throughout my life from construction and real estate to health care and information technology to be a part of something revolutionary. We are creating a community that will provide our seniors, our staff, and the families of both with experiences, opportunities, and relationships that will change their lives; we are redefining senior living in the State of Alaska.
I have a Bachelors Degree in Business Management, served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Tucson, Arizona, speak Spanish, and when not working, love being outdoors mountain biking, kayaking, fly fishing, skiing, or hunting. However, more than anything, I enjoy spending time with my wife of 20 years and our four children.
In 1991, I graduated in construction management and was hired as a project manager for a residential development company in Northern California. A year later, I relocated my new family and ventured into site development and general engineering.
There is an art of creation and an euphoria that comes with visualizing, drawing and then physically building something. It’s an unbelievable feeling that never leaves your system once you have tasted it. Deep down I knew there was something more to my career than tasting dirt and making money.
I spent the next three years creating a new corporation, obtaining a commercial general engineering license and meeting bonding requirements. During that time, we had a beautiful baby girl.
One night I received a phone call from a friend. He was working as a home health aid in the new concept of “Assisted Living.” It was unregulated comparative to skilled nursing facilities, and it represented a new paradigm for long-term care; “A life like home, without the institutional feel.”
He told me to come up and take a look. I flew out and spent time touring facilities. That is when I discovered my new love, my new career. Together, we spent months developing plans, looking for locations and establishing our business model. We commenced construction and opened our first facility in Soda Springs, Idaho in 1995.
It was a new start, an adventure and then came the truth – we were fully occupied and still loosing money. After 18 months and sleepless nights, we realized that our seniors needed more care and we needed more staff. We knew we needed to do something different. We introduced a negotiated services agreement (an NSA).
We developed descriptions for three levels of care. Each level had different needs; which became known as the need for adequate care, the need for adequate compensation, and the need to compensate the owners for the risk and time that it takes to manage a business. Shortly after this, we began construction on our second facility in Montpelier, Idaho. This time time we knew we needed to start with more rooms and our newly created NSA.
We heard rumblings of a new HCBS waiver program through the Idaho Assisted Living Association (IDALA). We were approached by the commissioner of health and welfare and asked if we would pilot this.
We accepted the invitation and used our NSA and some very basic excel spreadsheets. These simple practices became the data that the state used to create a point system, which became their now universal assessment instrument (UAI), which is still used to establish a care rate for acuity after rent, food and utilities (RUF) have been considered.
We learned a lot these first three years. We realized we had a newly introduced care model that was not only in demand but a blessing to those that we provided services for.
Finally we were paying the bills. Then three years and three children later, my wife and I determined we needed to relocate our family to Boise, Idaho.
Shortly after relocating to Eagle Idaho, I purchased a map of the state of Idaho. I then pasted it on an office cork-board. The next day I purchased three colors of thumbtacks and posted the two facilities we currently owned in red on the map.
I then went to the states’ websites and printed a report that showed every assisted living facility in the state. I began putting thumbtacks on their locations. This visual allowed me to understand what the State of Idaho meant for our future. We then began by placing yellow thumb tacks for facilities over 16 beds and green thumb tacks over facilities with less than 15 beds.
We realized that if there was no hospital our chances of survival were weak. Based on the map, we began construction in American Falls, then Eagle, Saint Anthony, Meridian, Boise and the list went on. Our communities began training to provide care for Alzheimer and Dementia and then independent living. We began buying larger properties to create campuses. By 2010, we became one of the five largest Assisted Living providers in the State of Idaho.
During this adventure we got involved with initiatives that included The Department of Health and Welfare and the ongoing need to change rules and regulations, reimbursement rates and other legislative initiatives that are essential to staying in tune with a healthy ever changing industry. Our association became affiliated with a national organization, the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA). We attended national conventions that gave us access to leading edge practices, technology and quality assurance initiatives.
We became affiliated with the National Investment Council (NIC), which has a broader base and involves not only assisted living, but skilled nursing. We learned a lot, but then something happened. I was at a convention in Florida. There are usually several keynote speakers, like a Colin Powell or a Newt Gingrich. Once in a while, these keynote speakers will be what we call an “unknown.”
I do not remember the name of the individual this day, but I do remember he started out by introducing himself as a fellow operator who was running our large CCRV in the state of New York. He began to give us a history of evolutionary change in the American Economy.
We started as farmers and hunters, then goods and services, then we began mining natural resources through the gold rush, then manufacturing and then the industrial revolution and then he introduced the… “experience” industry. I was taken back for a minute as he began sharing the evolution of Broadway, which eventually led to Hollywood and the film industry; then, a guy by the name of Walt Disney who created a “theme park” and then the hotel and hospitality industry. He went on and on and began to explain how goods and services were no longer marketed through needs but experience and desires.
Sex sells beer and cigarettes, beauty sales clothing and cosmetics, Hollywood sells emotions. Then he asked what we were? Where did we belong in the continuum of the economy? How were we classified as an industry? Were we goods with our food? Were we services with our care plans? Did we fall under the hospitality industry with our elaborate real estate as we tried to one up each other with new designs that had curb appeal?
I personally thought we were a health care industry and fell under the direct line of services. I stood corrected, and realized that we as a company were falling short of our potential. We do have an obligation to provide an experience. We went home from this convention and fired our marketing directors. We called in all of our Executive Directors (Administrators) who formed our board of leadership and redefined their role. It required us to create new job descriptions for them, for their nurses and for their staff supervisors.
Our activity directors became life coaches and when they planned events and activities more than just the resident was considered in the planning. We hired Meredith St. Clair who was working on her doctorate in Gerontology and teaching troubled teenagers in the Boise School System. We spent the summer of 2006 writing the curriculum for what we eventually called “Ohona” which in the islands means family and within the family unit – that we are bound together as a community.
This curriculum was brought to our newly energized life coaches. We began to infuse the community and school with the knowledge behind our residents. The story of the sinking of the titanic was told through the grand daughter of the lead finish carpenter who still had some of her fathers’ tools. We told the stories of the WWII conflict with fully dressed decorated veterans. Children learned of these experiences firsthand in the classroom. The educational value behind our residences’ experiences was invaluable to the community.
We developed personalized software system that utilized retail scanning technology with picture images, electronic scanning bars and medication distribution. This became to be knows as “AutoMar” and is sold today nationally as one of the leading medication management software systems known as “QuickMar”.
It will take another time for us to share all that we did, but suffice it to say that the need to go and find people to live with us no longer existed within our organization. The health of our seniors improved, the culture in our communities transformed and we began receiving letters from extended family who had been a part of this experience for our seniors.
We began to see within our facilities a culture change. The need to discipline for endless peer criticism and backbiting diminished. Caregivers and cooks began to work together. Activities became a family event and our mothers’ day, fathers’ day and other similar days of recognition became a family event, not only for the residents, but for the staff as everyone united.
As all stories have a beginning, they also have an end. As we became one of the larger long term care providers, it soon became a reality that I was spending most of my time dealing with lenders, investors, attorneys and insurance adjusters. I knew that we had grown to the point that we needed a fresh start and a new set of relationships.
We spent six months developing an offering memorandum with all of the details required to attract larger investors and operators. It took us a year following this offering memorandum to finally sale our organization to a REIT.
We entered into a non compete for three years and since our sale in September 2011 have used our investment and development skills to create single family developments, multi family apartment projects, fast food establishments, convenience stores, reclamation projects, and other commercial retail and business ventures.
It has always been our intention to return to the senior market and begin the journey we started in 1994 in South Eastern Idaho. We have learned much over the past 22 years as owners, operators, developers, and investors in the senior long term care industry. It is our belief that there is something to be done in the State of Alaska. The condition of the long term care industry is almost what we felt when we started in Idaho, and the seniors along with their families are seeking for something more than just quality care.
All of us as we reach the age when the pendulum shifts from being children to being a primary care provider for our parents has a new set of decisions to make. The tools for long-term care are closely tied to these decisions, and what it means to us as individuals and our interactions with our parents.
Our role as long-term care providers is much deeper than just documentation, adequate training, clean facilities and good meals. It is tied to the ability to counsel with the public about the decisions they need to make individually since every family, every individual and every health care condition is a private matter and vastly different.
We have found that the decision to accept long-term care services is not an event but a process even after it has been made. Creating and using the tools to keep our seniors involved with their community, with their family and with the greater world which they are a part of is what transforms this decision to accept long term care from an event and keeps it a healthy and evolutionary process.
These tools are not in addition to providing excellent care, but a change in how that excellent care is administered. Every individual has a song to sing or a dance to engage in, and discovering this within our seniors and then giving them the instruments to play at their level of talent and ability is what is needed for them until their final breath.
We are excited to be working within the State of Alaska and hope we can offer what we began to experience to those that we serve in Anchorage.