Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a five part series for caregivers.

For some people, the thought of being admitted into a long-term nursing facility evokes visceral and raw emotions — worry, sadness and anxiety are likely at the top of that list. Fortunately, long-term nursing facilities have evolved over the decades into places of profound compassion, care and wellness — both physically and mentally.

The term “nursing home,” which was used for decades, is no longer an accepted term in the field. Bobbie Woolcock, senior director of Operations, UPMC Senior Communities prefers the term nursing facility or senior community. Amber Bartlett, an administrator at Asbury RiverWoods, Lewisburg uses the term Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) for their wide range of living environments.

Woolcock explained, “Long-term care is essentially when someone needs additional support that cannot be provided at home. That support could be a variety of things. It could mean that someone needs assistance with their activities of daily living: bathing, dressing [and feeding] for example. But it could also mean that someone needs assistance with management of an IV or IV medications for an acute condition that no longer qualifies for an inpatient hospital stay, but the person isn’t stable enough to go home.”

Bartlett added that someone might need a long-term care setting due to an acute physical or mental decline or a chronic condition where caregivers can no longer care for them at home.

Jean Shultz, Assistant Director of Nursing at Asbury RiverWoods added that if a person is weakened because of an illness or surgery, temporary care may be required.

Jana Bennett, a social worker at Asbury RiverWoods recalled a local family that was struggling at home with their loved one who had dementia. They tried as hard as they could to enlist resources in the community, but it became too much for them.

She said, “We were able to provide them a bed in our memory care area. They came in, took tours, met the staff and we showed them the different activities we can do and all of the wonderful amenities.” She added that they gave it a trial and their loved one transitioned beautifully.

Woolcock said patients who might be a candidate for long-term care should ask themselves the following question and answer honestly: “Do I have the support that I need at home?”

She said many times caregivers are people who are still working, so there are only certain hours of the day that a daughter, son, or even a spouse can provide care, she said.

Woolcock said that once a resident comes into the community, a lot of care is taken to create activities that are new and innovative, for patients and their families alike.

“We get a lot of ideas from our residents and their families. We often have people coming in to provide entertainment,” she said.

Woolcock commented that while it may sound cliché, BINGO remains the most popular activity at most of UPMC’s senior care communities. She added that being part of a hospital system, UPMC is fortunate to have access to clinical support services on-site — radiology, laboratory, specialists, pulmonology and respiratory services, for example.

At Asbury RiverWoods in Lewisburg, residents also have the advantage of an on-campus full-service hair salon, a fitness center that offers a variety of programs to support overall wellness and brain health, and amenities like an in-house dentist, eye doctor, foot doctor and a Chaplain who does Bible studies and Sunday worship.

What to expect during the intake processWoolcock said that while families are actively involved in the intake process, they are careful to be respectful — from the beginning — of a patient’s wishes.

She continued, “Oftentimes, family members are scared and maybe feel guilty about having to [admit] a family member.” As a result, they try to begin the admission process before it is absolutely needed.

Woolcock said the admission process can be overwhelming, so they tend to break the information into manageable chunks.

Bennett agreed, “A good part of our intake process comes from our collaboration with hospitals and social workers. We invite the residents (and their) families to come in, do a tour of the facility, and meet the (other) residents.” When someone is admitted, there is an introduction to staff and a process for keeping families informed. She added, “We have care plan meetings and we have open door policies where we encourage families just to come in, call us, email us — [we ask] what can we do to help you through your (loved-one’s) stay here?”

“The success rate, no matter what the goal is, is much better with support from our team, and from (the resident) who is important to them,” Woolcock said.

Bennett agreed, “We do different celebrations with the seasons; we just had the Veterans Day parade, but [day-to-day] they’re welcome in our everyday care to attend therapy with their loved ones, eat lunch or dinner, and just being embraced by our staff.”

Aaron Barth, executive director of Asbury RiverWoods, wanted to remind readers that an increasingly common goal today is for a resident to move into the care community when they are younger, healthier and more active.

He explained, that ideally, if residents join their community when they are still experiencing independent living, they have an assurance that whatever level of care they’re going to need down the road, there’s going to be a spot for them in their community. Folks might join the community in a cottage, but if their health begins to decline, they would then have a space in personal care and then if it was needed — skilled nursing care.

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