Optics and Outcomes

If it looks like a house and smells like a house, is it a home? In designing long-term care environments, or as we used to call them, nursing homes, we take great pains to re-create places that look just like the ones we came from. They may have peaks or porches, kitchens or dens, laundries or gardens but they all try to replicate home. It’s natural of course since we work so hard to make our homes just right; comfortable, warm, and above all, ours.

Design for entry level, independent living is almost exclusively driven by market pressure. We cater to what the 60/70 something’s want for themselves, two bedrooms, larger living rooms, views, fine dining, pools, etc. This varies from region to region more than one might think. But the look and feel of these environments is collectively leaning to a more sophisticated and selective buyer.

For operators that provide direct health care, buyers search similarly for homey character though the buyer is not usually the resident. Those entrusted with placement of folks who need care and assistance, still look for homes that support the notion of house. Operators that hold onto what we refer to as, institutional facilities replete with central nurses’ stations, long uninterrupted corridors and larger resident to staff ratios, will soon go the way of the DoDo.

The making of a house however is not an exercise in decorating and must do more than make the sale. Replicating home leads to better health outcomes. Corridors give way to wider space that serve as living rooms wherein residents and staff socialize and interact on a more intimate level. Both groups work, eat and socialize in the kitchen, just like home. They interact with each other at specified, structured times and impromptu as they walk about the house, just like home.

Current research and data is proving that resident acuity, social skills and health improves within the house concept. Perhaps just as dramatic, staff efficiency and satisfaction also improves. One operator recently reported staff that has transitioned to their Greenhouse Project TM cottages, to be happier overall and are less willing to return to their older main building. Healthier residents, happier staff: now that’s a win-win.

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