Friday, August 10, 2007

Let's not make nursing homes and assisted living Home-Like - let's make them home!

Yesterday I attended a presentation designed to promote Avamere Health Services' newest community, an up-scale retirement residence called the Stafford to open next year in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

The presenter, talking about the meals, said that they won't be "restaurant-like" but will be authentic restaurant style dining. He said in an off-the-cuff manner, “People say their places are home-like, or their meals are restaurant-like; we’re not going to be ‘like’ anything; we’re going to be genuine.”

I thought, “What an appropriate concept for senior living!”

Too often we focus on being home-like, when what we really offer is a home environment that is simply different from the home one lived in before. If we truly believe that our communities are our residents’ homes, why are we describing them as “home-like?”

Several years ago I wrote an essay titled “Changing Home” in which I described our challenge in introducing my in-laws to moving from their long-time house into a retirement community (read it at the end of this blog). What I was trying to convince my in-laws was that they were not leaving home, but simply changing home.

Somehow we don’t seem all that convincing when we describe our communities, assisted living or nursing home, as “home-like.” Let’s start calling them our residents’ home, and training staff to think of them in exactly that way. We’re then guests and employees in our residents’ home, rather than them being visitors in our “facility.”

Maybe changing our mindset, and the way we orient our staff to think about residents and the building will help us achieve a true culture change that will genuinely make a difference in the quality of life and the quality of care.

Changing Home
(Essay written in June, 2005)

A few weeks ago I shared with you our family's story of helping BOTH sets of parents choose to move into a retirement community.

We spent weeks scheduling the first retirement community visit - weeks during which the negotiation went like this, "Mom, Dad, I know YOU aren't ready for a retirement center, but you know how much it would help the other set of parents."

And the reply invariably went like this, "You're right, we're not ready yet, but the other set of parents sure is!"

Finally, we got to the retirement center and spend hours - literally - getting through both sets of parents' anxieties and resistances.When we left, all four parents were talking about how nice this would be - "4 or 5 years in the future" (that's a 92- year-old speaking)!

Now, two months later, MY parents have their name on two waiting lists, and are actively cleaning out their very formidable collection of stuff; my husband's parents are still talking about the "where" and the "when."

My mother-in-law keeps bringing up this refrain, "I never thought I'd have to give up my home."

And I've been thinking we've been missing the mark here, both in our conversations with the folks, and in the marketing within our profession. We're not asking people to "give up their home" - we're simply asking them to change their address.

Because ANYWHERE can be home - whether you own, rent, or stay free. HOME is that place where you feel comfortable being just "you."

Where, if you're lucky (Mom, Dad, are you listening?) you're surrounded by people who make you laugh, who give you something to talk about, and who share meals, good times and bad times with you - and who are there to help you when you need help.
Because a house is just a house...but a home is absolutely wherever your heart happens to land.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic perspective. While I applaud the Eden Alternative's work, let's face it only a handful of nursing homes have embraced it. Others are making needed changes to their facilities but few if any approach it as you say simply as moving from one home to another. Good perspective.