Women of Achievement: Managing isolation and elder care during a pandemic

Robin Mixdorf took on the role of president and CEO of Meth-Wick Community in February 1999. For the past 20-plus years, she’s accepted any task that has come her way.

“I think the biggest part of my job is the line that says ‘and everything else as assigned’ because no two days are alike,” she joked.

Robin Mixdorf, Meth-Wick Community

While she has general oversight of operations of the organization, she also might have a resident pop in to talk with her at any time.

“I can’t stress how truly engaging it is because every day is different. I can count on one hand the number of times where I thought oh, geez, I have to go to work today. It is truly a people-focused, people-centric job because you’re not producing widgets. You are supplying services and purpose for people.”

Mixdorf didn’t start off her career in the elder care field. After college — she has an undergraduate degree from Iowa State University and her master’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa — she started in a manufacturing setting. She worked in accounting and benefits administration before being hired as a human resources director for a retirement community.

“While I was there, the person who was the CEO asked me if I would consider getting my nursing home administrator’s license so that we would have more than one on that campus, and I did and I so enjoyed it.”

Her career since then has been at the helm of Meth-Wick. And much has changed in the years that Mixdorf has worked at the organization.

“We have grown the campus,” she said, noting independent living has been added as an option in the community. New buildings — including a new nursing facility, many duplexes and condos — and a therapy pool have been constructed.

“And we have also really created a focus on wellness on the campus,” Mixdorf added. “We see ourselves as a wellness campus with options for care.

“A small percentage of the people who live on our campus are actually in a nursing home or in assisted living. Most of our residents here are independent living and so over the years we have grown and continually refocused what we do on creating a broad sweeping wellness program.”

The past year has been particularly challenging for the entire Meth-Wick community — which includes more than 400 residents and some 200 employees. As Mixdorf reflects on it, “I’ve got such a fabulous team, and it’s really been one of those years where it’s been a team sport for sure,” she said.

The pandemic and the derecho in August brought the Meth-Wick Community many challenges.

“The No. 1 (lesson) we’ve learned this year is that it takes everybody doing the right thing and all of us moving in the same direction that has sustained us through everything that is going on,” she said.

“Not only did we have COVID-19 to deal with and the isolation that our residents were dealing with and the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week focus on infection control, but then we had the derecho on top of that, dealing with no electricity or phones.”

Mixdorf saw her staff and the residents step up to care for each other, whether it was riding a bike to work because a car was trapped in a driveway by a tree or people volunteer to help deliver meals to all residents.

“We saw a doubling-down of efforts on everyone’s behalf,” she recalled. “I can’t tell you how both the residents and staff just pulled together. It took every single person.

“And at the end of the day, our mission is to provide our residents with a secure and caring living environment and to be the employer of choice for our employees,” she said. “And we did try to have a little fun in the midst of it all.”

Mixdorf hopes to inspire the next generation of leaders in her own organization and in the community.

“There is a saying that I appreciate ever so much, credited to George Washington Carver, and it’s ‘How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.’

“I look at that saying at least once a day, thinking am I doing all these things. I hope that’s the way I treat others, with care and compassion.”

Business 380 spotlights some of HER Magazine’s Women of Achievement, published by The Gazette. The awards were sponsored by Farmers State Bank.

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