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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2014:06:23 15:11:49

STAFF PHOTO/ MICHAEL WINTERMUTE Kathaleen Koerner meets with administrator Michael Perlock to discuss her first month at the manor.

Ten years ago, if you would have asked Michael Perlock where he planned to be, he likely would have said, ‘a courtroom,’ as a lawyer defending some high-profile case.

But that was before Perlock first hopped onboard with United Methodist Homes.

Back then, Perlock was a ‘grunt’ - working in the kitchen, then maintenance, then supervising maintenance - but he’s worked his way up the ladder like any good American Dream-er.

Simply put, Perlock found a calling with the UMH, and now he serves as the administrator for Tunkhannock Manor, a position he’s held since December.

“I enjoy working with these residents. I feel, at the end of the day, I’m making a difference,” Perlock said.

He added, “Being in a facility can be depressing, I’m sure - I want to do what I can to make sure it’s not.”

In his short stay, Perlock has helped to push construction and renovation projects through to more fruitful stages, noting the process can be a long one that hinders the manor’s plans for future growth.

But Perlock was making moves before he even officially held the title of ‘Mr. Administrator.’

In November, during Tunkhannock’s annual ‘Airing of the Quilts,’ Perlock found himself fascinated by the community coming to life, and quickly realized the luxury a strong community could add to the manor.

“I decided we should hold an open house, and it was great,” Perlock said. “We had a popcorn machine, we had apple cider - a lot of people came in and took tours.”

Technically, Perlock’s position consists of fielding any issues employees or residents might encounter.

In that capacity, he’s tackling a common shortcoming of nursing home care - residents feeling trapped.

“When people first come in, it’s a huge decision that can be very hard,” Perlock said. “I try to help by making sure they’re comfortable and that they can hold onto as much of their possessions as possible. It makes it feel like you’re home.”

His role as a sort of counselor - which, really, all of the staff at the Tunkhannock UMH hold - is just one piece of the administrator portrait.

For the future, Perlock is planning on some big moves.

At the forefront is the idea first implanted in his head at the ‘Airing’ - community involvement.

Whether it’s more trips to the Dietrich or to local restaurants, Perlock wants to get his residents out and about, so they never feel enclosed.

Then come the renovations. Although they were not Perlock’s sole vision, they are now his responsibility.

One clear change was to modify the front porch, a residential hot spot, to accompany four seasons of basking in sunshine, as opposed to just warm weather.

An enclosed area with big windows is just what the doctor ordered.

Furthermore, basement renovations will allow the manor to invite more outside activities to be pulled indoors, whether it’s a local yoga instructor or someone leading a drum circle.

What ever the manor can do to facilitate residents’ comfort, Perlock wants done.

Still, from his perspective, Tunkhannock is already quite blessed with what the UMH provides.

“It’s a very home-like atmosphere here; it’s not clinical. Here, the staff are a large part of that,” Perlock said. “Honestly, the staff here are one of the most dedicated and caring groups of people I’ve ever worked with.”

He added, “Of course, you always want more staff, but compared to other facilities of this size, we have a large staff.”

And with a large and dedicated staff, a nursing home can do extraordinary things for an individual, as evidenced by the ‘confidential’ case of a resident who moved to the facility in November.

Although she had social security income, the elderly lady was struggling to meet the demands of survival, even having her heat turned off in the middle of winter.

While the Tunkhannock Manor has a ‘resident-assistance program’ that facilitates a wide range of individuals in paying for residency, it typical requires a few months of occupancy in order to be implemented.

Because Perlock and the rest of the staff in Tunkhannock were aware of the dire need for housing for the elder, they brought her in.

“We were able to expedite the process” - which consists of subsidizing residents’ rent through a trust program - “and now she’s here, and she’s extremely happy,” Perlock said. “That’s the kind of thing that I want to be able to do.”

Having already laid out the detailed game plan he has for the institution, it’s hard to imagine Perlock could fill his plate with any more, but he’s currently working to get the manor involved in a ‘Senior Peer-Counseling Program,’ and ultimately, wants to make the building a sort of ‘adult center,’ where folks can come spend the day.

Perlock attended Misericordia University for a bachelor’s degree in the arts and later attend Marywood University to obtain credentials for nursing home administrative positions.