|The Changing Face of Continuing Care|
by Liz Jones
April 2012- The face of continuing care is changing. Terms like Culture Change, Person or Resident Centered Care, and the Eden Alternative have all been used or branded to describe the change and movement that are underway.
The changing face of continuing care is moving toward individualized care to give seniors choices and puts them at the center of decision making. This movement is impacting the world of continuing care in several ways. Existing skilled nursing or assisted living facilities are re-evaluating the thought processes and decision making that govern the daily life of senior residents. New facilities in development not only are looking at how seniors can be empowered to be active decision makers, but also what defines the structure of a continuing care facility.
Existing Facilities Promoting Individual Choices
To start, existing skilled nursing and assisted living facilities are making strides toward creating an atmosphere and setting to provide seniors who reside there more personal comforts and individual preferences. Seniors are now put at the center of decision making for their care. This process is accomplished by asking several questions before a plan of care is implemented or decisions are made concerning the facility; what is best for the senior, the resident? How will it impact his or her daily life? And, is the individual resident’s personal preferences being considered?
It is important to ask these questions while encouraging individuals to take an active role in the decision making that determines the care he or she is receiving. One of the major issues that can arise with seniors residing in a continuing care facility is the feeling of helplessness that comes from the act of always being on the receiving end of care, not being able to reciprocate. By including a person in the process to determine the type of care and the implementation, he or she is being empowered with the right to make his or her own choices.
Personal preferences are also a key component in this shift of thinking; especially as facilities move toward accommodating the large population of the baby boomer generation. Personal preferences will have to be taken into account for each individual’s daily schedule, including what time does he or she like to wake in the morning, what time does he or she take meals, and when he or she prefers to shower during the day.
The New “Household” Model of Continuing Care
In reaction to the changing face of continuing care the physical structure of what makes up a facility is being re-evaluated. “Small-House” model assisted living programs are being developed to resemble more of a “household” set up with individual, private living quarters, and shared common areas.
In each “household,” seniors have a private room and bath with a communal kitchen, dining room, and living room where residents congregate as they would in their own homes. Home Healthcare Aides(HHA’s) assist the members of each “household” with care as well as cooking, cleaning, and promoting daily activities.
“Household” style assisted living facilities encourage seniors to take an active role in their individual care, along with actively participating in the routine of everyday living. The goal is to create an environment to promote an individual’s right to make decisions, taking into account personal preferences while also encouraging social, physical, and spiritual growth.
Additionally, “household” models will allow for seniors to age in place, bridging the gap that often divides assisted living and skilled nursing levels of care. Seniors will be able to reside longer is this model program than in traditional assisted living facilities.
The face of continuing care is evolving. Seniors who reside in existing skilled nursing or assisted living facilities are acting as engaged participants who can make decisions about the care they receive and choices in personal preferences. In continuation, the seniors who will reside in the future “household” models will additionally be able to take part in their community “household” setting that will help to develop their everyday routine while promoting individual growth and wellbeing.
For those of us who have the pleasure of working in a continuing care setting or those visiting as a friend or family member it is important to recognize the movement that is underway. Identifying the direction we will travel will enable us to better promote and encourage seniors who reside at these facilities rights to more individualized decision making and choices. With that also keep in mind, on a daily basis we are each given the privilege of walking into and working in these resident’s homes. We should each work, to our best ability, to respect and honor this privilege.