Symposium addresses transformation of eldercare in challenging times

January 15, 2016


Benedictine Health System is a partner in Interlude Restorative Suites, a short-stay rehabilitation facility with resort-like amenities. Here Cassie Budinger, a certified occupational therapy assistant, works with Blanca Rivera on activities of daily living at the Fridley, Minn., location, which is managed by Benedictine.

BOSTON — Leaders from Catholic long-term care organizations and their sponsors gathered here Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 before the LeadingAge annual meeting to exchange information and learn about practical approaches to challenges and innovations in eldercare. Discussions centered on opportunities for collaboration with community partners, responding to the service preferences and needs of the elderly, and managing through economic challenges.


Collaboration helped Christopher Homes, a continuum-of-care, senior housing and aging services company sponsored by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, through a period after Hurricane Katrina when the company’s very survival was in doubt. Deacon Dennis Adams, executive director of Christopher Homes, said faith-based and community groups united in the effort to save Christopher Homes and preserve its mission of providing a safe and healthy living environment for low-income seniors.

Adams described a program in development that would use a commercial kitchen in one of its properties currently under construction to train homeless individuals in the culinary arts and prepare them for work in New Orleans restaurants.  "The program will in turn provide an expanded number of meals to residents beyond those already being provided by the charitable group that is planning the training program," Adams said in a follow-up email.



Becky Urbanski, senior vice president of mission integration and marketing at Duluth, Minn.-based Benedictine Health System, and Traci Larson, vice president of sales and marketing for Roseville, Minn.-based Presbyterian Homes and Services, described their systems’ three-way partnership with each other and with Allina Health in the Minneapolis area to create Interlude Restorative Suites, a customer-friendly, short-stay rehabilitation facility, adjacent to hospitals and convenient for physicians. Two have been built to date. Benedictine manages the location in Fridley, Minn., and Presbyterian Homes manages the Plymouth, Minn., location. Urbanski said the facilities aim to provide "clinical competence in a hospitable, spa/resort-like environment."

Clinical results of the program include a 5.7 percent hospital readmission rate, significantly better than Interlude's 10 percent readmission rate goal. Likewise Interlude has had one emergency room visit per 1,000 patients since opening its two locations in the spring and summer of 2015. Its goal for emergency department visits was fewer than six in 1,000 guest days. And 97.9 percent of users say they would recommend Interlude.


Representatives of ArchCare in New York City; Mary's Woods at Marylhurst in Lake Oswego, Ore.; and Carroll Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Washington, D.C., told the audience of Catholic health leaders about their strategies to strengthen services and operations.

Carol Cassell, vice president of managed care at ArchCare, the continuing care community of the Archdiocese of New York, described why and how her organization is offering more community-based services. In addition to traditional home care and nursing home services, it operates Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly and the continuing care community of the Archdiocese of New York, a care navigation program, offers health and wellness programming, and runs a call center and a "time bank," where participants can ask for and donate volunteer services.

"We moved from a ‘this is what we can do for you’ mindset to a ‘what matters to you’ orientation," said Cassell. "What people wanted was to stay at home with social supports, personal care aides, adult day care and memory care and even music therapy." The next steps for ArchCare will be to enhance care coordination with technology and to pilot new interventions for supporting home-based care, she said.

Mary’s Woods at Marylhurst is a continuing care retirement community with 439 residents, 80 percent of whom are in independent living. The organization launched its home care program in 2009, at first exclusively for residents, but now open to seniors living nearby. Services include companion care and assistance with tasks of daily living, housekeeping and transportation. Registered nurses oversee caregivers involved in medical tasks such as administering medications, or caring for a person requiring supplement oxygen or using a catheter.

"Our goal is to never say ‘no,’" said Diane Hood, chief financial and chief operating officer. "We try hard to meet each need our residents have."


Carroll Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, an affiliate of Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., set out to address its problems with staff recruitment by becoming credentialed as a Pathway to Excellence facility, the long-term care equivalent of the Magnet Recognition Program for outstanding hospital nursing programs. Tina Sandri, the facility’s vice president and administrator, said: “We needed to nurture our community's culture for growth and reputation for quality while existing under a struggling parent hospital.” They aimed at improving staff morale, recruitment and retention, quality and marketability to hospitals.

Among other changes that Sandri said helped Carroll Manor achieve Pathway to Excellence status was giving its nurses control of the practice of nursing, providing professional development for staff and promoting a balanced lifestyle for employees.

Loretto Health and Rehab, a continuum-of-care company based in Syracuse, N.Y., turned its business around after a period of financial distress in 2013, in part by adding programs such as palliative and end-of-life care, specialty care, and opening “small houses” for skilled nursing care and a new PACE site, said Kimberly Townsend, Loretto's president and chief executive. Loretto entered into an affiliation agreement with St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center in Syracuse and strengthened relationships with other area hospitals. It developed standard protocols and quality measures to ensure excellence, she said. Loretto is or is on the way to being both provider of choice and employer of choice, Townsend said.




Susan McDonough, vice president of strategy and system development at Covenant Health in Tewksbury, Mass., discussed how small, independent Catholic long-term care organizations and religious congregations caring for aging members can maintain their mission during ownership or management transitions. “Preserving mission is more than keeping the crosses on the wall,” said McDonough. “It's a complicated, well-considered approach that comes from a great deal of advance work.”

She emphasized the need to plan early, to have well-articulated expectations, to know how much change is desirable or tolerable, as well as how much control the original organization or order wants and to identify any nonnegotiables, such as maintaining a chapel or keeping certain celebrations and rituals. “These things need to be determined before talking to potential partners,” she said.


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