Gov. Dayton appoints RC woman to state Board on Aging

Patricia Schommer
Patricia Schommer

Gov. Mark Dayton on May 7 appointed Patricia Schommer, of Rush City, to the Minnesota Board on Aging.

Schommer is the associate director of the University of Minnesota Center on Aging and Minnesota Area Geriatric Education Center. In her role at the Center on Aging, she promotes interprofessional development and system change to advance quality care for older adults.

She was part of the national team for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement project, providing technical assistance to participating nursing homes as they integrated Quality Assurance elements into their organization.

“It’s a system aimed at transforming care from top to bottom in meeting measurable standards for older adults specific to nursing homes,” said Schommer, anticipating it to be incorporated in assisted living and other health care models in time. “It was fun. I had a wide variety of 17 nursing homes from across the nation working on it.”

She considers the Minnesota Board on Aging a pioneer nationwide, as it works on a budget with funds from the Older American Act and looks at policies and other issues affecting older people.

Urged to apply by a colleague of the state Department of Human Services, Schommer said the governor spoke to her about the volunteer appointment on the phone; it was an informal interview.

“I was really excited,” she said of the good news that ultimately came. “It’s nice to have the experience to be considered for such a high level of appointment.”

Schommer has grown to love Rush City since her career in nursing home administration began at Hillcrest Health Care Center in 1982. She appreciated the school district that educated her two children and the community for all of its help following the death of her husband, Butch Behrendt.

“I like the small-town atmosphere,” she said. “Becoming a widow at age 42 was really hard. People in this community really helped raise my children with me.”

Schommer’s experience in the long-term care field includes positions in almost every entry-level job since she was a hospital volunteer at age 11, visiting with older adults and bringing them anything from ice water to mail. She also helped write letters to friends and loved ones.

“I look back now and think, ‘How cool is that,’” she said.

She particularly enjoyed her time as executive director at Stevens Square, a home specializing in hospice care. During her tenure, she helped found CareChoice, a group of premier senior housing providers in the Twin Cities area, and she established an institutional pharmacy called CareAlliance.

Schommer is a past recipient of Care Provider’s Innovative Program of the Year for her work in culture change, pairing alternative learning center students with the elderly. She serves on many committees and advisory boards related to the industry.

She is simply passionate about people and especially seniors, she said.

“I adore the elderly,” Schommer said. “I think it’s the wisdom, history and heritage they bring. They have customs. They weren’t raised to throw anything away. They fixed everything, and family gatherings were important.

“I love … collecting recipes, making food from scratch and learning to bake bread,” she added of the older generation’s influence on her. “Those are things that just aren’t done anymore.”

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