National Nursing Home Week is celebrated across the country in the month of May to honor nursing home residents and the caring, committed staff who assist them in their daily lives. As the administrator at Northern Montana Care Center, this week means special dinners, a talent show, awards and plenty of smiling faces at the “office.” This special week is also a perfect time to focus on our mission at the care center and how that mission is truly changing lives.
There has been a recent systematic, organizational change in nursing home care that is shifting our work toward a more individualized, consumer-driven practice. This “culture change” focuses on providing residents and caregivers more choices and autonomy in their day-to-day lives. Our residents have always been at the center of our work. Now, our care will be resident-centered, enhancing quality and creating opportunities for overall organizational improvement.
This cultural shift is the continuation of decades of work to personalize nursing home life. Over the past five decades, practitioners and administrators have been humanizing nursing home care one step at a time. In 1987, the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform led the effort to enact the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, requiring nursing homes to meet the physical, mental and psycho-social needs of each resident. Quality of life became a priority for care providers and forced them to consider how the quality of care affected the life of residents. Changes came and quality improved.
Along with these efforts, the federal government has also joined in the call for quality of life in nursing homes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released the Action Plan for Nursing Home Quality in 2008 echoing the “principles of knowing and respecting each nursing home resident and providing individualized care that best enhances quality of life.” This support from the federal government means a united effort where our efforts will match those guidelines put forth by our government agencies that survey nursing homes for quality care and safety.
That brings us to 2013 and the continued efforts to improve residents’ experiences in our nursing homes. Today we are striving to base our caregiving relationships on the needs and personal desires of our residents instead of utilizing standardized treatments across the board. While structured activities are available at certain times, spontaneous activities are available throughout the day. Residents can set their own daily routines. The living environment reflects the comforts of home and there is a sense of community and belonging.
For many residents, moving into a nursing home can be associated with a feeling of homelessness, a loss of independence, a loss of autonomy and an overall feeling of powerlessness. It can be an incredibly difficult transition for the residents and their friends and family. Focusing on resident-centered care and structuring nursing home environments to resemble the comfortable home life residents enjoyed for the majority of their lives will make the transition easier. The goal is to provide a “normal” life in every way possible.
So this week we join in the celebration of nursing home residents and especially those that make up our family at Northern Montana Care Center. We also salute our staff that works diligently to provide a loving atmosphere based on respect and dignity. Our staff and our residents make the care center the award-winning facility it is. More importantly, they make it home.
(Ron Gleason is administrator of Northern Montana Care Center.)