The ‘new’ Rice Care Center invites community to open house this week
WILLMAR -- Rice Care Center is preparing to say farewell to more than four years of continuous construction and hello to a facility redesigned to meet growing regional demand for high-quality services for older adults.
WILLMAR - Rice Care Center is preparing to say farewell to more than four years of continuous construction and hello to a facility redesigned to meet growing regional demand for high-quality services for older adults.
The doors will be opened to the public from 3 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday for a grand reopening reception and open house.
Pam Adam, administrator, is eager to show the community just how unlike the negative stereotypes a nursing home can be.
“We got the vision that we were looking for but you need to see it and feel it to understand the awesomeness,” she said. “We want people to come in.”
Five years ago, Rice Memorial Hospital was at a crossroads with the Rice Care Center: update the aging facility or exit the long-term care business. Hospital leaders chose to invest $11 million in renovating the nursing home from floor to ceiling and building the short-stay facility known as Therapy Suites. The Rice Health Foundation led a $2 million capital campaign in support of the project, as well as raising the money to create and furnish a central gathering place.
The goal was a home-like atmosphere to promote healing and quality of life, and “they nailed it,” said Adam, who arrived in July as the new administrator.
The 78-bed project started in 2011 with the completion of Therapy Suites, a short-stay unit that provides subacute care and rehabilitation. Long-term care residents began moving into newly renovated space in mid-2013. The final phase, the development of a new main entrance and central gathering spaces, was completed this fall.
Visitors are likely to notice the physical space first: self-contained resident “neighborhoods” with private rooms, private bathrooms and their own kitchen and dining areas. Wood accents and warm color tones echo the outdoors. Large windows let in plenty of natural light.
Finishing touches were being made last week to the final phase of the project, a central gathering space that includes a small coffee bistro, a family-size dining room for private meals and “Gathering Place,” a large activity room for special events such as holiday parties, family reunions and more.
Adam hopes it will be a place for residents to gather, where their social and emotional needs can be met and the community can participate in the life of the Rice Care Center.
“It’s just like their home. They can entertain here,” she said.
Some of the biggest changes, however, are in how the care itself is provided.
Nursing homes traditionally were structured around the needs of the staff, said Adam. The Rice Care Center’s new design enabled a culture change that puts residents at the center of the decision-making, she said. “They are the drivers of their care, of their activities, of their community and of their home. This is their home.”
Boredom and loneliness often erode the quality of life for long-term care residents, said Diane Hagedorn, director of nursing. In the months since residents began moving into their newly completed neighborhood, she has seen them become more engaged.
Because staff are assigned to specific neighborhoods, they’re getting to know the residents better, she said. “We connect more with people. We know their likes and dislikes.”
The home-like setting allows residents to have coffee together, go outside to the garden court or bake cookies in the kitchen, she said. “We couldn’t do that before.”
In a measure of how residents feel about their new space, the most recent survey puts their satisfaction at nearly 100 percent on indicators ranging from quality of life and quality of care to likelihood to recommend to others.
“We are above the national average in all areas,” Adam said.
She and Hagedorn also expect better health outcomes.
For example, the neighborhood structure with assigned staff may help minimize the spread of viruses that lead to infections such as flu.
Quieter surroundings may reduce the need for anti-anxiety medications in some residents, Hagedorn said.
Better health and quality of life also can make a difference in appetite, mobility and even pain management, leading to less frailty, fewer pressure sores and fewer hospital admissions. “We have happier residents,” Hagedorn said.
Adam hopes the model of care will help attract and retain staff as well.
The long-term care industry is being challenged to change its culture and do better for aging adults in need of skilled care, she said. “What’s so exciting here is how advanced it is. They’ve done some very innovative thinking in this project.”
“We can never go backward,” Hagedorn agreed.