Nursing Home Design: Focus on Person-Centered Care

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While the desire for most people is to age in place, you don’t need to dig far to find the crippling health statistics that suggest that people will need nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Nursing home design of the future with a focus on person-centered care will be crucial.

Not Just Green Houses

Much has been made and rightly so of the concept of The Green House. This project creates small, communities by altering facility size, interior design, staffing patterns, and methods of delivering services. Their theme is Warm, Smart, and Green.

Not every nursing home can afford to transform into a Green House or build one. Does that mean person-centered care cannot thrive? Certainly not.

Designing the Future Nursing Home

The quality of life for a resident is not just about the physical environment. It is about the social and cultural environment and how all work together. It is about hiring the right staff and educating staff on culture change.

It is about having policies that are flexible. Signage, dining options, consistent staffing – all of these contribute to the quality of life. But no doubt the physical environment plays a large role in resident satisfaction.

From Hospital-Like to Home-Like

The entrance plays a large role in first and lasting impressions. Here are easy steps to make it more welcoming.

  • Have clearly marked signage that identifies the entrance.
  • Create reserved parking for visitors.
  • Have wheel-chair accessible curbs and ramps.
  • Create landscaping that is colorful and inviting.
  • Decorate for the season.
  • Create comfortable seating areas.

A Warm Reception

Create a reception area.

  • Create a reception area even if limited in size.
  • Staff it with a volunteer if staff is not assigned.
  • Construct a visitor’s restroom off the lobby/reception area.
  • Set up a coffee/tea bar important for both hospitality and for creating inviting “smells” as you enter the home.
  • Have soothing and inviting music playing.
  • Have a log-in book and install non-conspicuous video cameras to monitor the space.

Navigating the Home

Corridors must have adequate lighting and signage that makes sense. Corridors can become spaces that tell stories.

  • Create a history of the home through photos.
  • Highlight recent activities.
  • If non-profit, use walls to showcase fundraising initiatives.
  • Showcase local students’ and residents’ artwork.
  • Make sure the corridors are functional too with non-slip flooring, grab bars, etc.

Dining Experiences Key to Satisfaction

The dining experience is crucial to the satisfaction of residents and families alike.

  • Many dining areas are cavernous and impersonal. Break up space.
  • Minimize noise by considering carpets, drapes and table covers that absorb sound.
  • Consider the view outside the window!
  • Consider other uses of the dining space for community functions too.

More Tips to Make a Home for Residents

In their manual, Practical Strategies to Transform Nursing Home Environments, Lois J. Cutler, and Rosalie A. Kane offer many suggestions that can transform homes.

  • Create lounge/social spaces, a place where visitors, staff, and residents can interact with each other.
  • Install an aviary.
  • Create a library.
  • Have a designated barber/beauty parlor.
  • Create a small meditation area in a quiet corner of a large room or use a small room.
  • Install an aquarium.
  • Consider a pet policy.
  • Make outdoor areas accessible and safe.

Beyond the Physical

Creating a home for residents goes beyond the physical space.

  • Stagger meal times so residents have a choice.
  • Move activity programs away from measuring how many people attend to the meaning programs have on individuals.
  • Investigate programs like Second Wind Dreams that help grant wishes for seniors.
  • Create inter-generational programs to involve the community.
  • Imitate the StoryCorps program and start capturing residents’ life stories.

Real Payback

Investing in creating an environment that creates great experiences has its rewards. Word spreads and that leads to new admissions. Process improvements cut down costs. Happier employees stay. Desired employees apply. Overtime costs and agency use decreases.

Changing the environment does not have to be a high-cost affair. It starts with leadership wanting to change. By empowering staff to find solutions, you will find innovative, low-cost ways to improve the care that you might not have otherwise thought about. And involving residents assures buy-in and the confidence that you are proceeding with the best initiatives for all involved.

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