Three elephants could have been born during the five-year construction project at The Davis Community. It has been a long wait for those of us who attended the first strategic planning meetings eight years ago. In addition to the hefty price tag that gave everyone some sleepless nights, we knew that once we agreed to go down this path of nursing home transformation that there would be no turning back. In truth, we knew the old nursing home model would soon be obsolete, especially as the silver tsunami began showing up at our doorstep with demands of private rooms, spa baths, customized schedules, personalized activities, fine cuisine, concierge services and more.
I understand. If I end up in a nursing home you can count on me wanting space for my favorite stilettos even though I won’t be able to walk in them. I’ll want access to live musical performances, theater and hot, delicious meals on a warm plate and access to the kitchen so I can make a cup of tea when I want it. I’ll demand long soaks in a warm, deep tub while I watch a favorite movie. Most of all, I will want what everyone wants; a sense of home and kind people to care for me.
Transitioning from home to skilled nursing care should not be a traumatic experience for residents or their families. So, please lawyers, stop making “nursing home” the most frightening combination of words in the English language. Nursing. Home. It’s what we do. We provide nursing services in a beautiful and nurturing home environment.
After listening to the desires of residents, families and our own caregivers and studying the trends in the nursing home industry, The Davis Community embarked on a bold culture-change transformation. No longer would the caregivers make the decisions to fit their schedules. We would ask the residents how they wanted to be treated and develop our plan of care around their needs, not our own. Because we are a not-for-profit organization with local leadership, we moved quickly to create a true home environment for our residents.
Yes, it is a challenge to turn a 1960s-era campus into nine beautiful households, but we had “good bones” and Bruce Bowman of BMH Architects, Jennifer Kraner and the talented designers at Big Sky Design, and the team of onsite managers from Monteith Construction brought their considerable expertise and passion to make each household appealing. They took on the project as if they were planning homes for their own parents. Sunlight and soft lighting, rich colors, beautiful art, flowing fabrics and comfortable private spas and salons make the households inviting and personal. The households are beautiful and nurturing places to live, but they are also desirable places in which to work.
While construction was underway, we changed day-to-day operations to meet the needs of the residents. One simple example involved dining services. Rather than wheeling carts of prepared food from a central kitchen, we cooked in front of the residents and served food they desired at the time when the resident was ready to eat. Appetites and weight increased. Conversation at mealtime became more animated. Relationships between residents and staff were built around the dining tables. All aspects of daily life became resident-centered.
Is it easy to change an entire industry to a culture where household teams work in concert to achieve quality patient care and satisfaction? Of course not, but as The Davis Community is preparing to open its final renovated and reconfigured household, the model of care from five years ago seems incredibly foreign. Sure, we have the satisfaction statistics, reduction in the number of falls, decrease in the use of antipsychotic drugs, a low turnover rate in a high burn-out field, and so many other indicators that the household model works. However, all it takes to know we have changed lives is one visit to a household. It will feel like home and I bet you’ll be invited by residents to sit and talk about life, and maybe share a piece of homemade pie.
A third-generation Wilmington native, Julie Rehder is marketing and public relations administrator for the The Davis Community in Porters Neck. The not-for-profit Davis Community provides quality assisted living, skilled nursing, rehab and wellness services to aging adults in a loving, continuum of care environment. The campus is celebrating its 50th year on July 1, 2016. For more information about The Davis Community, go to www.thedaviscommunity.org, www.facebook.com/thedaviscommunity or call (910) 686-7195.
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