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Front Page » February 18, 2010 » Focus » Senior care options advancing in Price
Published 2,058 days ago

Senior care options advancing in Price

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Sun Advocate reporter

They all used to be called "old folks' homes." It was a place where people went to be with others like them, gotten out of the way and - more pointedly - to die. The services were few, amusement for the residents was contained basically in conversation or watching television and those placed there were often just "warehoused" there until the died.

Today things are very different. Americans are living longer than ever and the age of those going to places of care is increasing along with their numbers. Medical treatments, and easier, less wearing life, and the management of many long term diseases has created an entirely new class of what are called "seniors" today.

The evolution of senior care has changed the face of the American geriatric industry. Almost no area of the country is without some kind of senior facility.

The "old folks home" of days gone by mutated over the years into nursing homes. But as our society changed, nursing homes were not enough; many seniors had either small families or no family and could generally take care of themselves, but needed aide of some kind to get by. Thus was born the assisted living center.

While there is a great deal of difference between a nursing home and an assisted care center, in many people's minds they are the same thing. Knowing about those differences is important, not only to get the proper kind of care for someone, but also for the pocketbook and for insurance or medicare purposes.

Simply put, a nursing home is a facility designed for someone who needs less care than a hospital, but requires daily health assistance.

Usually, a nursing care facility has the main function of providing long-term nursing services as well as health-related services on a continuing basis, for the treatment and inpatient care of people who may or may not be related to one another.

Nursing homes are regulated by the state and must meet certain specialized criteria. This mean the staff responsibility within such a center is great.

Employees are charged with caring for people who are generally ill, many very long term. The facility itself must meet certain specifications, but the real difference between the kinds of nursing homes comes down to the staff that must care for the people who reside there.

Generally nursing homes are for those who require daily health care and a good amount of assistance, for those who need aid getting in and out of bed, taking medications or need help using the restroom.

Also those who have Alzheimer's disease (and related maladies) are usually in facilities like this if they are unable to eat on their own or bathe by themselves. Nursing homes may also serve accident or stroke victims, who need much of the above assistance, and are well enough not to be in a hospital, but still not able to go home or to a rehabilitation facility.

Assisted living centers are a different ballgame - played in a very different ballpark. While in some ways they may seem similar to nursing homes in physical appearance, what goes on there, while still care, is generally less intensive medical wise.

Generally these kinds of facilities provide a service for adults who may have physical or mental impairments and require at least moderate assistance with the activities of daily living. However, care often varies greatly on a per patient basis, depending on their individual needs.

Assisted living centers provide care in two basic ways. First is care for those who need assistance with one or more daily activities they must perform. Second, they can also take care of providing assistance to someone who has a mental or physical impairment who cannot do many things for themselves.

One of the main ways the two facilities differ is that the nursing home is a semi-hospital with many nurses on staff and doctors that are hired to monitor the patients' care. Assistance is up close and personal in almost all aspects of a patients' day.

At an assisted care center, basic care and assistance is given, but in some ways the service is like a resort or even a college dormitory.

Depending on the resident, some get laundry and food services and for the rest of the day may be left somewhat on their own, unless the request extra help. Assisted living centers generally coordinate medical care, rather than provide it directly.

In assisted care couples also figure in to the equation. One person in a couple may be very independent, but may have trouble taking care of the other half of the pair, so assistance is needed for that situation.

There are four major senior care centers located in Price proper:

Castle Country Nursing Care

Located at 1340 E. 300 N. in Price. Al Shakespaere, executive director since October, feels that while the differences are well-known to the senior health care industry, many in the general public have yet to grasp the concept.

"We're a big advocate of cultural change," said Shakespaere, who served at the Parkdale Care Center before moving to Castle Country. "The thing is that we want to change the perception that when someone comes here, they are not sent to die, per se, but to be rehabilitated and then returned home as soon as possible. By having a wide variety of activities, we are seeing a great improvement in both the mental and physical health of our residents."

Such activities include a celebration of the current Winter Olympic Games, sampling international menu items and taking outside trips to various location throughout the city - something that would be unheard of at a nursing home. And while staff training and levels of care are big factors in what constitutes a nursing home or a care center, things available for residents to do is also a huge part of changing peoples' perception, as well.

"This has made their quality of life that much better," added resident advocate Kerrie Barker. "We have an activities calendar that just goes on and on. The residents themselves even take part in planning events. Just because someone is in a nursing home doesn't mean they have to live like they're in a nursing home."

Even such mundane topics as food preparation can usher in such changes. Castle Country plans on allowing residents to choose their own menu items within the next few months. This option, according to Shakespaere, will greatly aid in a patient's well-being and self-esteem.

And while a minor thing to some, the choice of one's meals makes them feel important and not so much a faceless resident of a medical care institution.

Still, until the word gets out, many in this area who may be facing the hard questions of what to do with a senior loved one they can no longer care for, just might make the wrong decision in regards to their future.

"We are trying to educate the population about our facility and break the cycle of a the mindset of a senior citizen being institutionalized," said occupational therapist Scott Crider, one of the people behind the Winter Olympics event. "When we engage in these fun events, it not only puts residents in a better mental state, it can also aid in their physical rehabilitation as well - and many of them don't even realize how good it can be for them."

That opinion is echoed by physical therapist Chuck Walthall. "We have a blast," he said in describing outside trips and activities. "It's a far cry from the days when the resident of a nursing home would have nothing to do but sit in a wheelchair and maybe play cards or watch TV.

"I think when the residents see how much time and effort we are putting in for them, it makes them feel better about themselves and makes them want to participate more."

Another successful therapeutic technique involves incorporating seniors with local youth. Castle Country promotes programs which allow the generations to come together for the benefit of everyone involved.

Programs include regular visits from elementary school children, youth choir performances and other activities featuring kids from in and around the community. Employees report the light on a senior's face when dealing with children is almost as bright as a child's visage.

"These things combined make life so much better and easier for our residents," Shakespaere said. "We strive to give them the best quality therapy - physical, occupational, speech - and return them to their loved ones.

"We want residents and family members alike to feel this is a home away from home; but to also realize we want to get them back home as soon as we can. Getting the residents involved in as many activities as we can is also a great part of our effort."

For more information on Castle Country Nursing Center, call 637-9213.

Parkdale Care Center

The oldest such facility in Price is located at 250 E. 600 N. and has been around since 1963. Like Castle Country, this is a full care, licensed certified skilled nursing center with approximately 42 patients currently filling 58 beds. And while long-term care is offered, the venue stresses short-term rehabilitation as its goal.

"Ideally, we would like to help them with a temporary situation - say, a broken hip - and get them back as soon as we can," said Cheri Giles, director of nursing services and a registered nurse at Parkdale since 1996.

"While here, we offer a wide range of activities to keep them busy and happy, though. The stereotype of patients just sitting around wasting away and waiting to die is no longer a fact.

"We give them many choices so they literally don't have time to mope around," Giles added. "We are also constructing single rooms for short-term residents, have therapist on-site eight hours each day and utilize a restorative aid for follow-up situations. We are updating and modernizing and trying to provide as much of a home environment as possible."

And while Castle Country plans to initiate a made-to-order breakfast menu, Giles claims Parkdale has already done so. "Being able to make a choice, even for something like a meal is huge for a person's dignity and self respect," she said.

For details about Parkdale, call 637-2621.

Heirloom Inn

From the outside, this retirement residence and assisted living center seems nothing like the stereotypical "old folks" home. In fact, it could be placed in the middle of Bel Air or Beverly Hills and not look out of place. For Price, however, it is quite ornate and has become something of a proud and elegant tradition for many of its 70 residents.

Owned by Shauna O'Brien, who purchased an old grocery warehouse in 2000 and turned it into one of the more stunning structures in the area, the facility breaks the mold for such centers. And while it does not have the full medical range of a nursing home, it does offer a wide range of services.

"We cater to those who are completely independent to those who require assisted living to those in need of substantial care," said administrator Kelly Dozhier. "A really big difference between us and a nursing home is the socialization aspect. Taking care of a senior's physical needs is certainly our highest priority, but we also offer activities which give them a sense of belonging, as well."

These may include shopping trips, bingo, tea parties, short story time, visits from local schoolchildren, exercise sessions and some "serious" card games.

Those who want to participate are given plenty of opportunities to enjoy Heirloom's amenities, while those who desire private time can retire to any number of beautifully-arranged rooms, studios and suites.

"We want the residents to experience a home away from home," Dozhier added. "In fact, I believe we offer the best of a senior retirement community with specialized care. It's a wonderful combination."

As for O'Brien, she said that she saw a need in Price for a high-quality assisted living facility at a time there were few if any available. "I didn't just want to open a nursing home, I wanted to give seniors a hotel-like atmosphere. We still work with other facilities like Castle Country and Parkdale for our residents who require more care than we can give, but many times they come right back here."

Another advantage for residents is that they are able to decorate their apartments in the style of their choice. It brings a dignified touch of home to a place that can often be lonely and depressing for some.

For more information on the Heirloom Inn, call 636-8441.

Bee Hive Homes

Billing itself as "quality senior living in a residential setting," there are two Bee Hive Homes in the area, 1025 W. 470 N. in Price and 15 W. 100 N. in Elmo. Both centers are owned by Dallen Skelley, who grew up in New Mexico and became interested in senior care after his father purchased four such homes.

With wife, Molly, Skelley has been the owner/administrator of Beehive in Price for the past three years, which caters to Level II residents, or those who may need assistance in leaving the premises.

"There's a huge misconception that people in assisted living facilities need to be able to take care of themselves," he said. "We can do everything a nursing home can do, including "round the clock care."

Providing care for only 16 residents (the beds are currently full) is a big advantage according to Skelley. "It's like a grade school situation - the smaller the class size the more one-on-one attention the child receives," he said. "With just 16 residents, we can give them better and longer custom quality care. We're actually closer to a nursing home in many respects than your typical assisted care facility."

He also touts the center's friendly and homey atmosphere, large sunny rooms and daily activities as a major boost to morale and emotional well-being. There are also various outings, bingo, crafts, games and physical sports such as kickball, bowling and other forms of exercise.

And while Castle Country, Parkdale and Heirloom all claim as a goal to get residents rehabilitated and back home as soon as possible and Beehive advertises that it is "the next best place to home," Skelley takes a different view. "Quite frankly, this may be a person's last address. I do not mean that in a negative way, but to me getting a patient back home may be a big mistake.

"The reason many came here in the first place was that they could not be taken care of like they needed to have been," he continued. "Few homes can offer the kind of care we give and often times a person returns home and slips back into the state that made them need our services. Unless a person is of independent means and can afford in-home assistance, we offer the best choice for that individual in need."

Like the others, Bee Hive allows local children to participate with seniors in events such as Easter egg hunts and Halloween and Thanksgiving parties. Another unique feature is the venue's "open kitchen policy," which allows residents and family members alike to use the facility's kitchen to prepare meals, as well as take advatage of its liberal visitation policies.

"We want this to be like grandma's house," Skelley said. "We truly want this to be a home away from home." For details about Bee Hive Homes, call 636-4483.

These care-giving centers may be novel approaches to the age-old questions of what to do with grandma and grandpa, but with medical technology allowing for longer lives, such approaches may be just what the doctor ordered.

Rick Shaw contributed to this article

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