Peg Friday

Peg Friday sits out on a patio at Garden Spot Communities in New Holland on Friday, April 19, 2024.

For 93-year-old Peg Friday, the Springwood Household at Garden Spot Village is the perfect place for her and her feline friend, Kiki.

“Staff and friends here are like family,” Friday says with a smile.

Living in a cottage since 1998, Friday moved to the household in 2023 following an illness. She was happy Kiki, her 10-year-old calico cat, was allowed to move with her, being the first and only pet in the household.

“It’s really like home with Kiki and my personal things in my room, and not like the institutional nursing home of years ago,” Friday says.

Quality of life for older adults like Friday who are living in care communities has become a priority in the 21st century.

Home-like settings such as Friday’s are one reason Garden Spot Communities is now part of an effort to promote excellence in long-term care across the nation.

The New Holland retirement community is one of five long-term care communities in the U.S. specially selected to partner with New York University to develop a designation of excellence in person-centered long-term care.

The initiative is being funded through a $375,000 award from the Chicago-based Mayer-Rothschild Foundation to the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at NYU’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

The foundation and its award honors the late Robert Nathan Mayer, a pioneer in the person-centered care movement and an advocate for cultural change in long-term care communities to ensure older adults can live life with dignity.

“The initiative is intended to help those who care for older adults in residential communities to have a better understanding of the concepts which define person-centered care,” says Tara Cortes, executive director of Hartford Institute, clinical professor at NYU Meyers and principal investigator on the designation initiative.

Recognized as a leader in advancing age-sensitive and equitable care for older adults, the institute is well-placed to direct the excellence initiative.

Here’s a closer look at the 18-month project and what it hopes to accomplish:

What is person-centered care?

“Quality care with respect, integrity and dignity to honor the individual’s preferences, values and needs,” Cortes says. “It provides an environment that encourages individual decision-making.”

Since the concept has been around since the 1950s, why is person-centered care now a prime concern?

As the older population grows more rapidly and people live longer, there’s a greater demand for quality care across the spectrum of health care, Cortes says.

How will the funding be used toward developing the excellence designation?

The Hartford Institute team will visit each community to conduct focus groups with residents and staff. Interviews with family members who represent residents will be done using the Zoom platform. Person-centered care champions are assigned from staff at the communities to work with the team.

From the information gathered, the team, a panel of experts and other stakeholders will work with the communities to develop tools, guidelines and standards to guide and evaluate nursing homes, assisted living communities, dementia and memory care residences to achieve the designation of excellence in person-centered care. The five communities will test the standards and pilot the program to earn the excellence designation.

The initiative began in January 2024 and will conclude in June 2025.

How was Garden Spot Communities chosen?

Mayer, who died in 2015, was founder and president of the Hulda B. and Maurice L. Rothschild Foundation, which embraced the person-centered approach in long-term care. The Mayer-Rothschild Foundation was founded after his death to continue his work and is funded by the original foundation.

Both foundations are well-known to Steve Lindsey, Garden Spot Communities chief executive officer, who worked closely with Mayer on several task forces since 2009. He served on the foundation’s advisory board from 2014 until 2020, then took part in the designation of excellence expert panel until 2023.

“Rob was an advocate for advancing person-centered care to improve the quality of life for seniors living in nursing homes,” Lindsey says.

Under Mayer’s leadership, Lindsey says, the foundation promoted home-like settings in nursing care communities with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Garden Spot Village, part of Garden Spot Communities, embraced that philosophy to build two households in 2006 and renovate the existing skilled nursing area into two additional households in 2007. The home-like settings offer private rooms decorated with resident’s personal items to replace the institutional shared-room nursing home model.

How does person-centered care differ from traditional health care of the past?

“Residents are given control of their care unlike the top-down, task-driven practices of the past,” Lindsey says.

Relationships are given high value over task lists with staff listening and supporting a resident’s choices to create a fulfilling environment, he says.

“Person-centered care creates a feeling of home, giving residents the opportunity to make choices about their food — when, where and what to eat; music they want to listen to; when to go to bed and wake-up; participate in activities and hobbies of interest to the individual not a group,” says Lora Gomboc, director of health care services at Garden Spot Communities.

Garden Spot Village co-champions for the initiative are dementia educator and consultant Melody Karick and director of marketing Kelly Sweigart.

“Our staff is super excited about working with Hartford Institute on this initiative,” Gomboc says.

Each community will measure their progress to determine the level of achievement in meeting the standards developed in the process, she says.

What areas in care communities will be involved in the excellence designation?

It applies to all levels of care serving people in assisted living, memory care, sub-acute care and skilled nursing. Family members and friends will provide information about likes and interests for residents who unable to voice their choices.

Who are the other communities in initiative?

Along with Garden Spot Communities they are: Beatitudes Campus, Phoenix, Arizona; Bethel New Life, Chicago, Illinois; The New Jewish Home, New York, New York; and Sequoia Living, San Francisco, California.

Cortes says the five communities were chosen to represent a diverse population from across the country with representation from the different races and ethnic groups that live in the long-term care system.

When will designation be given to the communities?

The Hartford Institute team will visit each community during the last three months of the initiative to validate their work in addressing the standards, Cortes says.

At that time, the communities will receive the Designation of Excellence in Person-Centered Long-Term Care,” Cortes says.

Lindsey and Gomboc say they consider it an honor to be part of this effort to help write codes to move person-centered care in long-term care across the country. Although Garden Spot adopted the person-centered care model almost two decades ago, they will implement the new standards at Mountain View (personal care), Meadow View (personal care memory support) and Garden View (skilled nursing households).

“Person-centered care is the way all of us want to live if needing to be part of a long-term care community,” Lindsey says.

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