Kathryn Lantis had an idea of how she thought her interview would go.
Q: Favorite band?
A: Depeche Mode
Q: Favorite color?
A: Black, but I also like lavender.
Q: Favorite food?
A: Thai. Particularly Thai Spice on County Line Road in Indianapolis.
It’s a peek at the fun side of Lantis, the director of marketing and admissions at Altenheim, one of CarDon’s communities located on the south side of Indianapolis.
“She is easily one of the hardest workers we have on the CarDon team, and she’s always willing to go the extra mile for a coworker or a resident,” said CarDon & Associates Regional Director of Marketing Jen Barnhart.
For more than 20 years, Lantis has been working at Altenheim — a job she just happened on.
“I was working at Winona Memorial Hospital, and it got downsized,” she said. “I had been there four years, serving in a quality assurance position in the health information department. When I had to start looking for a new job, I focused on jobs that were somewhat comparable and could use my hospital background.”
It was an ad in the paper for the Altenheim community that caught her eye.
In June 1992, Lantis started at Altenheim in medical records. A few years later she took a promotion to quality assurance with the corporate office, which required her to travel to and from Indiana, Ohio and Michigan with quality assurance oversight on 13 different buildings.
And while she worked, Lantis continued to strive to complete her college education.
“I call it the 20-year plan,” she chuckled. “I spent one year at Indiana University in Bloomington, but I just couldn’t keep up the financial end of things. So I worked a year or two, saved, worked a year or two, and saved. But I made sure to get back to school to finish what I started.”
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Lantis always thought she wanted to go to medical school. That’s all she had talked about to her family and friends for years.
“I figured out med school wasn’t really my calling,” she said. “I still wanted to make a difference in the world — a tangible difference — but I wanted something with a little more hands-on interaction.” Lantis received her bachelor’s degree in science and psychology from Purdue University at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis eight years ago — but already well on her career path.
“At the time, I was just looking for more education,” she said. “I can’t say I knew exactly what I was going to be or what industry I was going to finally land in, but it all just sort of evolved as I grew. And it turned out to be the right decision to not go to medical school.”
It turned out to be the right decision to join the team at Altenheim — the community where she started and then returned after her time on the corporate level.
“It was a profound moment, something that was meant to be,” Lantis said. “I had been working in corporate, and Altenheim contacted me for a position that wasn’t really me, so I passed it up. Then about three or four months later, Altenheim called again with an opening for a quality improvement coordinator. That was right up my alley. It was a different opportunity, and it was something I really wanted to do. Plus, the timing felt right.”
That timing in 2003 offered Lantis a chance to be closer to her family — and with the passing of her father, she knew it was the right time to come home. One of four siblings, Lantis wanted the chance to be near enough to help out her mom and serve as an emotional support to her brothers and sister.
Taking on the position of quality improvement coordinator required her to assume the duties of a medical records director, ancillary services director and administrative assistant — all in one.
“I thought it was rather comical,” Lantis said. “I got to the point I knew I couldn’t have three titles on one business card. So I had three separate business cards with three different titles — and I used whichever card was most appropriate to the situation.”
In January 2011, Lantis took on her current role of director of marketing and admissions at Altenheim.
“I like being able to help people,” she said. “From being a support person for a resident coming to our community for rehab to being able to comfort a family during a traumatic time, I always try to give my best in the role and offer assistance and guidance when residents and their families need it.”
Even before bringing a potential resident to Altenheim, Lantis receives referrals from some of the local hospitals and visits patients to begin to develop a relationship with them and their families.
“A lady at one of the hospitals had been diagnosed with cancer and was growing increasingly sicker, and her husband was in denial and her sons out of state,” Lantis recalled. “I helped them convince their dad to bring her to Altenheim. She passed away shortly after, unfortunately, but we had worked with them enough that when their dad got sick about a year later, they came straight to Altenheim. They insisted on having their dad with us and told the hospital case manager to ‘talk to Kathryn and she’ll take care of it.’ And still, every once in a while, the sons will call and thank me.”
“I truly believe in the family-centered care at CarDon,” she said. “People choose to stay here because they care and the quality is there. We have been blessed. It’s really all about the residents — and that’s not just a good advertising slogan.”
One way Lantis adds her resident-focused personal touch is by finding out what individual likes each resident has and making sure those preferences are reflected in their room when they arrive.
“It’s the little things,” she said. “If there’s something we can add to the room — flowers, a Tootsie Roll jar, a certain family photo — I will make sure that is there when the resident arrives. I want the residents to know we expected them, and we’re happy to have them in our community.”
Barnhart echoes that sentiment. “With Kathryn’s welcome bags for new residents, she really tries to tailor them to their personal likes. If they like M&M’s, she goes and buys them a bag,” Barnhart said. “And if they like crossword puzzles, she will have plenty ready. Whenever someone needs her help, her answer is always ‘yes, I can help with that.’”
Lantis said she learns so much from the residents every day, and they all have stories to tell.
“They are a generation who built this country, and they all have insights on life and lessons to offer,” she said. “When you show them you care, they sense that and begin to let their guard down. You can then develop interpersonal relationships, and I feel I’ve made an impact on them and they’ve made an impact on me. And that’s why I do it.”