Historic changes for Illinois nursing homes

CHICAGO—Today, Illinois nursing homes are taking significant steps to put the “home” back in nursing home. By joining in a revolutionary shift in thinking about life in long-term care facilities—called the Pioneer Movement—nursing home leaders and staff are cultivating elder-centered communities that are more life-affirming, satisfying and meaningful for residents.

Through this growing national movement, thousands of health care professionals from around the country are breaking free from the institutional, hospital-like model that has served as the blueprint for today’s nursing homes. These professionals are:

Making the nursing home environment more home-like;

Having the same staff permanently assigned to the same residents;

Offering buffet meals and restaurant-style service;

Developing spa-like settings for bathing;

Creating smaller neighborhoods within a larger facility;

Bringing in pets, plants and children; and

Offering further opportunities for community involvement, daily activities and increased quality of life.

“Our hope is that the Pioneer Movement will transform the culture of aging in America,” says Myrtle Klauer, an expert on Pioneer Practices and director of resident services at the Illinois Council on Long Term Care. The Council is a statewide association of nursing home professionals whose members are leading the way for the Pioneer Movement in the Midwest. For example:

Residents living at Capitol Care Center in Springfield now have permanently assigned staff that gets to know them and better understand their health conditions, needs and interests. Residents also wake up, bathe and go to bed when they want, instead of following a regimented schedule. The facility is also creating separate neighborhoods within the facility, each decorated with home-like touches chosen by the residents.

Countryside Care Centre in Aurora recently launched a fine dining program to replace its standard tray-based food service. Residents choose from expanded menus that include soups and desserts; enjoy off-tray choices, linen napkins and tablecloths; plan formal dinners that include wine; and are greeted by a hostess during lunch and dinner.

Residents living at Sheridan Health Care Center in Zion enjoy buffet dining. Individuals choose from a variety of hot and cold foods; serve themselves or receive restaurant-style wait service; and sit at tables covered by linen tablecloths and napkins and decorated with flowers. During breakfast, residents enjoy offerings from an omelet station. In addition, this facility is part of the Lake County Pioneer Coalition, in which area professionals share success stories on creating home-like environments for their residents.

Dozens of Illinois nursing home professionals are members of the Illinois Pioneer Coalition, a group dedicated to changing the culture of nursing homes in Illinois. This group sponsored the Illinois Pioneer Summit on Oct. 12 and 13, when experts from around the state met to discuss this historic change with hundreds of Illinois nursing home representatives.

“We want to advance from the standard model for nursing home care to one that is more focused on the residents’ quality of life,” said Klauer. “Residents should have more independence, being able to get up when they want to, choose what they want to eat and go to bed when they’re ready. We want the staff to know more about the residents they serve and develop closer relationships with them. The overriding goal is to make Illinois nursing homes more like a real home.”

From the Oct. 26-Nov. 1, 2005, issue

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