Phyllis and Earl Gildehous played a significant role in the upbringing of their granddaughter, Lindsey Lamb. The Washougal residents often cared for Lamb when their daughter — Lamb’s mother — was working, and developed a close relationship with her.
“They had a really big hand in raising me,” Lamb said. “I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up, so I feel more comfortable with elderly people than I do with kids or people my own age.”
That’s why Lamb knew when she was 16 years old that she wanted to pursue a career in geriatrics. But as she grew older, her ultimate vision came into focus after serving as a caregiver, certified nursing assistant and nurse.
“I worked in a lot of assisted living facilities, and even when I was young, I realized that they were not taken care of well,” Lamb said. “I just kept thinking to myself, ‘I can’t see this. I can’t continue this. I have to do something.’ So I kind of made it my goal to do something, and it kind of evolved into opening a home.”
After several months of pandemic-related delays, Lamb finally achieved her goal when she, along with her mother, Vicki Swanson, opened Pearl Senior Care in Washougal earlier this month.
“Because of the way the year has gone, and COVID, it has been such a long road,” Lamb said. “I’m excited, but I’m also exhausted. I’m excited, but I also know there are a lot of challenges that have presented themselves, so I am worried at the same time. Opening a business during this time, this year, has been so stressful. But I keep trying to tell myself that if I can get through this year and make this happen, we’ll be set.”
The facility will provide “holistic and compassionate care to the seniors in our community,” according to its website.
“My goal is to provide in-home care from the start, when (people) walk in the door, until the end of their days,” Lamb said. “That means increasing the level of care — maybe they need medications, maybe they need in-home consulting or occupational therapy. Whatever they need at that point, I have to figure out how to get that tied together. I want to keep them out of the hospital because there tends to be a cascade effect. Once they start doing those hospitalizations, they tend to not be able to come back to the homes that don’t provide those services of care.”
After graduating from high school, Lamb worked as a certified nursing assistant for 10 years at assisted living, nursing and in-home facilities. She received a nursing degree in 2013, then joined Prestige Care and Rehabilitation in Camas. She’s worked at PeaceHeath Southwest Medical Center since 2015.
“I’m proud of her,” Swanson said. “She had a goal and was willing to work for it. This (business) is mostly her. I’m just here to help her along the way. I have the business sense, and she has the caregiving background. She’s compassionate and has a heart for patient advocacy.”
Swanson recently sold her business, Phyl-Mar Swiss Products, a machining manufacturer started by her grandparents in southern California and moved to Washougal by her parents in the late 1970s.
“I’ve only worked for my family,” said Swanson, who recently earned nursing assistant certification from Clark College. “I worked for my parents’ business for 17 years, then bought it from them and ran it for another 23 years. That’s all I’ve ever known. (Opening a home) wasn’t on my radar; this is Lindsey’s passion, not mine. But she said that this is what she’d really like to do, and I was without a job, and didn’t want to go back to school or get into another career. This is the next family business.”
Phyl-Mar Swiss Products was named after Phyllis Gildehous and her sister Marge. Keeping with family tradition, Lamb and Swanson combined the first names of Phyllis and Earl Gildehous to create their business moniker.
Earl is currently the only resident at Pearl Senior Care, located on Mount Norway in Swanson’s former residence, which has been renovated and expanded to house six residents at one time.
“The land that we’re on was the land that (Earl) used to grow hay on every year,” Lamb said. “He’s living out his days on his land, which is, to me, the best part of this whole endeavor. My grandparents have four daughters, and all four of them live right there. The one that lives the farthest away is a mile, maybe two, down the hill.”
“(The family connection) pulls at the heartstrings,” Swanson added. “My father wasn’t happy at his (previous) home, and we weren’t happy with him there. Honestly I believe that if he was still there, he would’ve gone by now. Everything happens for a reason.”
Lamb said while she doesn’t “want anybody exposed to COVID” and will have an infection prevention plan in place, she’s hesitant to tell family members that they can’t visit their loved ones at her facility.
“Yes, I will be requiring masks in the home. Yes, I will require people to wash their hands and have their temperatures taken. Those are regulations that we have to do,” she said. “But unless (the state) makes it mandatory to limit visitors, I’m going to look at each situation carefully before I do that because I think that it’s important to realize what isolation can do to people.
“I can’t keep families away from their loved ones, especially at that stage in their lives. I don’t think that’s right. I think that’s incredibly damaging, and I wouldn’t want people doing that to me. If you tried to keep me away from my grandparents, it would be a problem. So I don’t want to do that to people.”
Lamb’s primary short-term goal is to fill her five open spots to provide Earl with some much-desired company. But she’s already thinking about expansion — opening a second home, or perhaps even providing in-home care services.
“We have a good foundation. We have a passion for it,” she said. “This was my dream, it still is my dream, and I’ll be happy to see it come to life.”