Retirement is supposed to be ‘the golden years,’ but for many seniors, it is instead a time of difficult decisions regarding housing, health care and finances. Since 1858, Lutheran Senior Services has helped ease the burden by providing an array of services ranging from independent living communities to hospice and end-of-life care. Celebrating its 150th anniversary, the faith-based nonprofit organization is one of the largest in the nation and serves more than 5,000 older adults in our area each year.
John Kotovsky, president and CEO of Lutheran Senior Services, says the organization has benefited from the legacy of quality care established by its founder, Rev. Johann Friedrich Buenger. “He was an amazing man,” says Kotovsky. “He emigrated here from Germany and founded the first Protestant hospital west of the Mississippi, which eventually evolved into Lutheran Senior Services. Despite losing his wife and children to an epidemic, he still dedicated his life to helping others. It’s a commitment that we continue to carry out.”
Today, Lutheran Senior Services has 19 different residential communities throughout Missouri and Illinois. “We provide continuing care communities catering to a range of needs and income levels,” explains Kotovsky. “For active older adults, we have independent living apartments and patio homes. We also offer residential arrangements for seniors who require a little more help, be it the services of a visiting nurse or other medical needs,” he says. In addition, the organization provides skilled nursing and special memory care units. Offering a continuum of care allows seniors to age in place, a convenience that makes a huge emotional difference to older adults, says Kotovsky. “It’s wonderful for individuals to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing their needs will be met, especially when spouses are involved since they don’t always age at the same pace. This way, they can live on the same campus and be just an elevator ride away.”
Lutheran Senior Services also offers service providers who help the elderly stay in their homes longer through private duty care givers, or if needed, licensed hospice care. “Since beginning our hospice services in 2007, we’ve provided end-of-life care to more than 200 individuals and their families,” Kotovsky notes.
Finally, the organization distributes almost $3 million a year in financial assistance for older adults living in their communities who have run out of resources. “It’s all part of our mission to help older adults live life to the fullest,” he says. “There can be such great joy and happiness in being an older adult, and we’re here to help provide that.”
Paul Ogier, chief financial officer, explains that Lutheran Senior Services draws on several sources to support its many offerings. “Our annual budget is about $130 million. Of that, about $230,000 comes from United Way to fund specific needs-based programs that wouldn’t exist without its help. Another 15 percent or so comes from third-party payors, like Medicare or Medicaid. The rest comes from our residents,” he says.
While there is a variety of housing options for a variety of incomes, including affordable housing for low-income seniors, an endowment helps ensure everyone receives a high level of care. “What the state pays for Medicaid is far below what it costs to operate, so we created an endowment that helps make up the difference,” Ogier notes. “We use earnings off the endowment to subsidize the shortfall.”
As a sound and highly organized group, Lutheran Senior Services offers a stability that comes from longtime experience, Ogier adds, and the value of stability cannot be overstated in such uncertain times. “We’re financially stable, and despite the challenging times will continue to deliver the highest quality of services,” he says. Lutheran Senior Services has an A-minus rating from Fitch Ratings, an international third party agency that rates the credit of organizations and institutions around the world.
“It’s a stamp of quality and financial security,” Ogier says. “There is a comfort that comes with being a part of a community like the ones provided by Lutheran Senior Services, and as need increases, these will become even more important. We intend to be there to meet the needs of these individuals, as we have done for 150 years.”