By Bridget Nash Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Negative images that form in the mind at the words “nursing home” have been dissipating over the last decade, but the transition away from an institutional feel is far from finished.
“Nursing home. That term is considered obsolete. There are very few regular nursing home facilities anymore,” said Samantha Wegmiller, RN, BSN, NHA. Wegmiller is health care administrator for The Commons in Enid.
The Commons provides “aging services,” said Wegmiller, and the residents of The Commons and places like it are making decisions to move to such a facility before they are in need of assistance.
“They choose to come in as independent living individuals, and they just move through the tiers,” she said.
There often is a certain level a trauma when an aging citizen is forced to leave his or her home because of a need for care. That is why many are choosing to make the decision early, while they still are independent. Those citizens can make their home in a facility that offers aging services and never have to transition again.
Some would rather not live in an independent living facility, and places like The Commons recognize that. Rehabilitation services are offered for those who want to stay long enough to be able to get well and return home.
“We have rehab for people going back home,” said Wegmiller. “That’s when you see (the system) really work.”
In addition to the different levels of service offered, The Commons and other facilities offer a different atmosphere than what was once normal for nursing homes.
“It is a hotel-style feel,” said Wegmiller.
The Commons offers spa service, complete with whirlpool, hair and nail services and light massage. They also have a gym residents may use for exercising, numerous activities for the residents and they serve meals “a la carte” 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“There is no tray line service anymore,” said Wegmiller.
The goal of the new aging services philosophy is to increase quality of life rather than let it diminish.
“It really is just delivering a set of services where it is no longer a nursing home feel, not institutional.”
And the changes are just beginning.
“It’s going to look different tomorrow in our business than it does today,” Wegmiller said. “It’s rapidly changing and that’s what’s exciting.”
Greenbrier in Enid also is taking part in important changes, including a remodel to accommodate residents and their quality of life and changing meal options so residents not only are better nourished but enjoy their meals.
“We work with Oklahoma Health Care Authority. It’s a program called Focus on Excellence,” said Brittany Conner, Greenbrier community relations director.
With Focus of Excellence, facilities can make changes to meet certain quality of life criteria and, when those criteria are met, receive additional funding. Making these and other changes over the past decade has made a mark.
“We’ve noticed an increase in our residents ... they are happy,” said Conner.
Residents of Greenbrier, no matter which level of care they need, are not living in an institution, they are living in a place that feels like a home.
Golden Oaks is another large senior living community in Enid that is implementing programs changing the face of nursing homes nationwide.
Golden Oaks also offers several tiers of senior living, from independent to assisted to nursing home care and even non-permanent care.
“We can offer short-term and respite care,” said Jill Hake, nursing center and skilled nursing administrator. “And we have on-site therapy — physical, occupational, speech — and wound care.”
Golden Oaks staff have worked hard to change any hint of institutional atmosphere at the facility to residents to live in a facility that feels like a home.
“We’ve adopted culture change and a resident-centered approach,” said Hake.
Hake said Golden Oaks staff work to accommodate residents and allow them freedom to abide by their schedules while complying with individual doctor’s orders.
“This is your home, this is your life. You get to be in charge,” said Hake.
Golden Oaks offers numerous activities for residents and has a scenic walking trail, a lake with ducks and a swimming pool.
“My goal here is to take away that fear of nursing homes. It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be a home,” said Hake.
About two thirds of Golden Oaks nursing home residents come from adjacent Golden Oaks village. The other third have transitioned from the independent and assisted living options.
“We have a lot of couples here,” said Hake. “Some of them, one spouse may live in the independent part and come over (to the nursing center) to visit every day. And some couples, they both live here.
“It is our goal,” she said, “to make their end years some of their best years.”