The Face of Cassia

Lake Ridge Senior Health and Living Director of Nursing Jill Gustafson Receives Outstanding Leadership Award from LeadingAge Minnesota

Cassia’s Lake Ridge Senior Health and Living Director of Nursing Jill Gustafson was honored in February by LeadingAge Minnesota with the Outstanding Leadership Award. The award encompasses the Twin Cities metropolitan area (also known as District G). 

Criteria for the Outstanding Leadership Award includes demonstrating leadership through vision, servanthood, mentoring others and a commitment to older adults. The story that most illustrates Gustafson’s leadership took place during the early days of the pandemic

“Jill Gustafson was passionate about the need to vaccinate residents and staff against COVID-19,” writes Cassia Regional Director of Clinical Support Sandy Delghausen. “She understood leadership plays a key role in encouraging and educating staff/families/residents about the importance of vaccinations. Gustafson volunteered to assist at Cassia Home Office mass vaccination clinics for Cassia employees, families of employees/residents and the community at large. She was also integral in organizing vaccination clinics at Lake Ridge to serve residents, staff, family and the community of Buffalo.”

At one of her vaccination clinics, the husband of a Lake Ridge resident was scheduled to drive to to the care center for his second dose of vaccine. Unfortunately, Buffalo was experiencing extremely cold winter temperatures on the day of the clinic. When Gustafson heard the resident’s husband could not make it to his appointment because of a stalled vehicle, she got in her car and traveled to the husband’s home to administer the vaccine. “This kind of action is not an isolated one for Jill. It is simply who she is, and what she does,” says Delghausen.

“Jill displayed exemplary vision when she accepted the role of director of nursing,” writes Director of Skilled Nursing Facility Clinical Services Exhilda Siame. “Within a few short years, she revamped systems to improve resident quality of care, and most importantly, worked tirelessly with staff to educate and raise the expectations and performance goals for resident care.

“She has a very caring way of walking alongside as she raised goals and set out clear performance expectations… Through her vision… Lake Ridge has improved from a one-star survey community to five stars. Not only that, Gustafson raised the Quality ratings of Lake Ridge to a Five-Star Overall Quality ranking,” adds Siame.

In fact, Cassia’s Lake Ridge Care Center has recently been ranked number one in quality indicators out of 346 care communities in the state of Minnesota. The ranking was awarded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services to recognize quality indicators for residents in skilled nursing/long-stay settings.

Not only is Lake Ridge ranked number one; the community has had an overall five-star rating from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Nursing Home Compare Report Card during the past three years. 

Gustafson received the award at the LeadingAge Minnesota Institute, the state’s largest and most comprehensive aging services conference. Professionals in all aspects of older adult services attend the annual three-day event to learn about new and innovative programs, share best practices and network with their peers.

Lake Ridge is Part of the Cassia Community

Cassia’s mission is to foster fullness of life for older adults in the spirit of Christ’s love. In 2018, Augustana Care and Elim Care voluntarily joined together to form Cassia, reinforcing both organizations’ missions. With more than 200 years of combined service, the affiliation strengthens our focus on meeting the needs of residents, clients and patients of all faiths. The name “Cassia” (‘KAS e– uh) was inspired by an anointing oil made from the bark of the Cassia tree and is said to symbolize the heart of a servant. Cassia provides independent and assisted living communities, memory care, skilled nursing care centers, short-term rehabilitation centers, adult day programs and a variety of community-based services for older adults across five states. For more information, visit

About LeadingAge Minnesota

LeadingAge Minnesota is driven to transform and enhance the experience of aging. We serve as a catalyst, working alongside our members, caregivers, advocates and consumers to collectively shape the future of aging services and ensure older adults in every community live with dignity, meaning and purpose. Together with more than 50,000 caregivers, our members provide quality, compassionate care to 63,000 older adults every day in all the places they call home including independent senior housing, assisted living communities, in-home care and skilled nursing facilities. For more information, please visit