Serving seniors earns Sikeston man top honor

Saturday, January 15, 2005
Richard Montgomery in his Sikeston Americare office.

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Richard Montgomery wants to make sure husbands and wives aren't separated as their health care needs change. Montgomery, owner of Americare, is trying to change the way rural communities deliver elder-care services.

And for that approach, among many other reasons, Montgomery was recently honored with the Missourian Award. The honor recognizes accomplished and outstanding businessmen, statesmen, educators and writers. Only 79 people have received the award in the program's 10-year history.

Montgomery was recognized for his contributions to elder care service. The award recognized his company as a model for others in the industry.

"The elder-care licensure law has always been that if your level of care changes, you are required to move to different buildings or facilities," he said. "If your wife is living at one level of care and you are at another, it is not very customer friendly."

So Americare and the University of Missouri-Columbia recently joined together to open TigerPlace, one of only four "aging in place" sites approved by the Missouri Legislature.

The pilot program for TigerPlace means people can get an apartment and the services come to them, Montgomery said. "That's what's meant by 'aging in place.' We can provide limited care, assisted living or skilled care at various levels at their apartment."

Montgomery is nationally-known for his experience in the acquisition and development of long-term facilities. He began his career in health care shortly after leaving the Army. He knew his father and father-in-law who jointly owned a nursing home in Piedmont, Mo., were looking for someone to manage it.

Montgomery and Sikeston businessman Don Bedell formed a company called Health Projects that managed the Piedmont nursing home and sought similar properties to buy and manage.

"We saw that no one really wanted to go into a nursing home, so we wanted to design an assisted-living facility that people would like better," Montgomery said. "These facilities existed in big cities but not in small towns."

In 1981, the two men sold the company and Montgomery started Americare. The company managed three skilled nursing homes in Charleston, Dexter and Aurora during the early years. Now there are 74 health-care facilities in Missouri, Kansas and Tennessee. More than 70 percent of those facilities are assisted-living centers.

"We were learning the business ourselves at the time, and over time we made adjustments to the facilities," Montgomery said.

In the 1990s there was a building boom for assisted-living centers "but we had been building them for years." However, he still focuses on more rural areas for his facilities.

About five years ago, Americare became one of the first in the country to establish assisted living facilities solely for Alzheimer's patients. Previously, there only had been skilled nursing homes available. Montgomery has five such facilities operating, including one in Cape Girardeau, and a sixth under construction in Joplin.

Health care isn't the only thing Montgomery focuses on. He serves as chairman of the board of the Sikeston-based Montgomery Bank, which was formerly called First National Bank. His father bought controlling interest in Planters Bank in 1961. Over the years, the bank has expanded to 12 locations, including ones in Jackson and Cape Girardeau.

Montgomery is also active in his community and has received numerous awards for civic involvement. He served as president of the board of directors for the YMCA of Southeast Missouri in 2000 and is active now in establishing a Christian academy in Sikeston.

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