Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

November 15, 2012

Senior care takes a new direction

Sharon Fisher
The Andover Townsman

---- — The changes we are seeing in senior care today were almost unimaginable when I began my career in this field 17 years ago. For the first time, we’re bringing hospitality to the forefront of health care. This transformation is allowing seniors to experience hotel-like amenities such as Wi-Fi and spa treatments, but more importantly seniors are empowered to choose the type of care and services they will receive.

As an Andover resident, it is all the more exciting to see this change in senior care happening North of Boston.

Here in the Merrimack Valley and neighboring communities, our traditional nursing homes are being replaced by modern and innovative centers that are laser-focused on short-term rehabilitation, with the goal of returning the patient home. These new rehabilitation and care centers offer an integrated approach to healing, that includes intensive rehabilitation by trained therapists so that patients recovering from surgery, or a cardiac or neurological condition, can get back on their feet and back to their independent lifestyle. Having a background in physical therapy, I am very pleased to see such a strong emphasis on recovery and education to ensure patients have the necessary knowledge to maintain a healthy and independent lifestyle once they return home.

For patients who require ongoing skilled care, a team of physicians, nurses, therapists and other health care professionals work around the clock to ensure that the patient receives care that is nurturing and individualized or patient-centered.

This transformation in long-term care is not only happening here in Massachusetts, but across the country, as a result of changes in the reimbursement structure for nursing centers as determined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and, even more important, the strong desire of seniors to return to their own homes.

At the heart of this revolution is patient-centered care, a concept that is at the forefront of today’s health care-delivery system. Patient-centered care means the patient’s individual preferences and overall wellbeing is the No. 1 priority. The patient decides what time they get up, when to eat breakfast and what they will eat. Just like at home, patients are the decision-makers for their daily life activities. By enabling patients to have control over their care, we’re empowering them to take control over their recovery.

A critical part of the patient experience is the “front of house/ back of house concept,” first introduced at Disney theme parks, where services and infrastructure are placed out of the view of patients to eliminate unnecessary distractions and excessive noise. This allows patients to focus on recovery rather than the sights and sounds of patients being transported, of food carts being pushed, or equipment being moved.

With an emphasis on healing, care centers are also designed to provide comfortable, home-like environments. Long corridors and noisy central nursing stations have been replaced with small neighborhoods featuring courtyards, fireplaces and small dining areas. This cozy atmosphere enables patients to fully rest and heal. Patients with similar goals are placed in the same neighborhood to help support their recovery. These types of amenities are part of an integrated and comprehensive approach to enhance the overall wellbeing of the patient and help them return back home.

Today’s seniors demand a modern care environment with innovative services, and providers of care must keep up with this demand.

Sharon Nicolette Fisher is an Andover resident and a vice president with SunBridge Healthcare, which is opening Hathorne Hill, a new rehabilitation and care center in Danvers. She has held professional positions in the senior living and long term care sector for the past 17 years.