Choices in Care

Trends in long-term care

More Homey, Less Institutional

People living in “institutional-type” nursing homes twenty years ago are likely in independent assisted living facilities today thanks to advancements made in building layout, senior nutrition and other lifestyle factors, says Ari Weinberger, president of CRL Senior Living Communities, which owns fourteen communities in Wisconsin, including Parkside Independent and Assisted Living in DeForest. Parkside’s apartments are spacious, with studios, one- and two-bedroom units and kitchens.

Oakwood Village’s facilities are based on a “household model,” says Keith VanLanduyt, marketing, PR and admissions director. Design is focused on resident quality of life as opposed to the previous model of staff efficiency. “Staff serve 8–20 residents who socialize together in a community living room and share a dining area versus the old ‘medical model’ where staff would serve 80–100 residents who lived down long halls.”

Sound Mind, Sound Body

“People should look for communities that are dedicated to helping them thrive, not survive,” says Weinberger. Look for enrichment opportunities in both the mind and body realms. Oakwood hosts lecture series from visiting professors, community leaders or even residents themselves. CRL has “life enrichment coordinators” who create a customized plan for each resident based on his or her unique areas of interest, such as math, history or photography.

Both communities emphasize exercise: at Oakwood each resident is in the Active Care program, which customizes exercise plans based on individual health and goals. CRL offers t’ai chi, yoga and made-from-scratch foods. Weinberger says ninety-five percent of the menu offerings are diabetic-friendly and because of their “robust diabetic management program” many residents are able to stop taking insulin as well as curtail any weight loss or dehydration issues, both concerns for seniors.

Memory Matters

Industry wide, assisted living facilities are accommodating an influx of adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“Memory care facilities, or communities specifically focused on serving older adults with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, have become common and are in high demand,” says VanLunduyt. “Fifteen years ago this was not a specialized area, and residents with dementia were served in a nursing facility, even though they didn’t really require 24-hour skilled nursing care.”

Design has changed considerably for memory-care units: “[In the past] memory care was offered in a unit in a larger building, which basically meant you took a wing and locked the doors,” explains Weinberger. “That’s not the best situation because it’s confusing. Those needing memory care need room to explore and wander, they need to feel like they’re not being locked away.” CRL’s memory care communities feature indoor and outdoor walking paths, high ceilings and natural light.

Quick Read: Safety First

The United Way of Dane County launched the Delegation on Safe and Healthy Aging last April. Their findings? The four biggest reasons seniors end up in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities are because of falls, adverse drug events, incontinence and dementia. Among older adults, falls are the number-one cause for hospitalization in Dane County.

Another major concern? Prescription drug reactions described as “an unintended effect of a drug that may result in mortality, morbidity or symptoms sufficient to prompt a patient to seek medical attention,” according to the report. The United Way will use the report findings to “prevent [these issues] and to keep people as stable and independent in their homes as long as possible. This is important because this population is increasing in Dane County,” says Renee Moe, vice president of resource development.

Shayna Miller is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

Read more Madison Magazine health articles here.

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