Both Ecumen Detroit Lakes and Sunnyside Care Center in Lake Park recently received a "Best Nursing Home" rating from U.S. News & World Report.

In a report released last week, the national magazine evaluated more than 15,000 homes nationwide, across each state and in 100 major metropolitan areas. This year, just over 2,000 of the facilities evaluated ― less than 13 percent - achieved the "Best Nursing Home" designation.

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"It's quite an honor," says Katie Lundmark, executive director of Emmanuel Detroit Lakes - particularly since the magazine recently updated its criteria for determining the top rating.

"They made it more stringent," she said, noting that the new methodology is intended to give a better sense of how nursing homes perform over time, as opposed to a one-time snapshot.

"We are so pleased to receive this national recognition from U.S. News & World Report," said Danielle Olson, executive director of Sunnyside Care Center. "This is a major accomplishment and high praise for our outstanding staff."

So what's the secret to these local nursing homes' success?

"It's the people," says Lundmark. "We have staff that are so dedicated... A day like this (after Monday's rains covered the roads and sidewalks in ice) is a perfect example. They have such teamwork and a real commitment to making sure they're here to take care of the residents and make it a good day for them."

"A lot of it really comes down to the focus that we've put on quality," says Olson. "We've had an increased focus on the quality of care we're delivering, but also looking at our staffing model as well as making sure we have the right number of people to provide the care that's needed."

To do that, they have made some improvements to the salaries and benefit packages they offer their employees, she added.

Lundmark said that Ecumen DL is constantly reevaluating its standards as well.

"We're always trying to find a better way to meet community needs, and the needs of our residents," she said, "as well as make an even better culture for our employees to work in."

Ecumen DL employs about 220 people, full and part-time, Lundmark said, and serves roughly 250 people per day, including residents and those who use its Adult Day Services, inpatient and outpatient therapy, home care services and various volunteer programs such as Senior Companions and Helping Hands.

Sunnyside Care Center employs roughly 60 full and part-time staff, and is licensed for 34 beds.

"Our primary focus is on our long term residents, the people who make Sunnyside their home," said Olson. "About 10 percent of our clients are outpatient or short-stay residents (100 days or less)."

In addition to its "Best Nursing Homes for 2016-17" listing, U.S. News & World Report also offers a Nursing Home Finder with comprehensive information about care, safety, health inspections, staffing and more for nearly every nursing home in the country.

"Several million Americans will spend at least some time in a nursing home this year, whether undergoing rehab after a hospital stay or as long-term residents," said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer for U.S. News & World Report, in a press release. "Finding a nursing home that meets an individual's specific needs can be challenging for families. Our nursing home ratings are designed to help potential residents and their loved ones navigate this difficult process."

"Every year we strive to improve upon the information we offer to our users making critical decisions," added Ben Harder, the magazine's chief health analyst. "With our new methodology, we have taken several steps to ensure that nursing homes that consistently perform well are highlighted."

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