A major consideration when thinking about moving to an older adult community is the quality of health care offered should you need medical support. United’s approach is very different than what you might find in other communities. “We focus on the resident as a person,” said Nicole Kendall, director of health and wellness at United. “We follow a social model of care, which means the resident is the expert in their wellness. We focus on their strengths not their medical conditions, and the resident tells us how they want to live. Our philosophy focuses on enjoying an active, creative life supported by a highly educated staff that are trained to see you as a unique individual.”
Nicole, a registered nurse, worked in specialized geriatric clinics before coming to United three years ago. “Training in the nursing profession is primarily concerned with a person’s medical conditions that need to be fixed or changed, but I have always believed that residents know how they want to live and that we can support them by providing choice and control over their lives. It’s all about helping the resident live well rather than what is most efficient for staff. We don’t impose restrictions on the amount of time we spend with residents. We allow time to talk with them and get to know them. We focus on the person, not the illness. I was drawn to United because of the philosophy.”
Garrison Green resident care manager Keziah Angeles said it’s the residents that determine how they want to live rather than staff imposing rules. “For instance, one resident was used to having her tea and breakfast at a certain time and a certain way. When she came here, we followed her lead because it’s her life. It’s more fulfilling for me from a professional standpoint because we get to know the residents as individuals.”
That approach can be a pleasant surprise for nursing staff who come to United from another community. While they may be used to referring to a resident by their room number, nurses at United always refer to the person by name. As well, nurses wear business casual attire, not scrubs or medical uniforms. Medications are given to residents in their suites, and nurses knock before entering a suite. Residents are treated with dignity and respect.
When a person moves into a United community, a comprehensive assessment is conducted that involves all aspects of wellness. The team gets to know the resident and his or her interests and strengths. It is a community approach that provides opportunities for residents to connect, while respecting their individuality and preferences. Each week the wellness team (nursing, food services, housekeeping, programming, fitness, United Minds team members and artists) meets to share their knowledge about individual resident’s concerns, capabilities and needs and develop approaches that can help residents improve their quality of life. The team takes a collaborative approach to help residents live life as fully and comfortably as possible, in accordance with their choices and values, regardless of any health issues they may have. The members of the wellness team are different than you would see in a traditional medical model, which is a reflection of the relationship that all staff have with the residents at United. Often, housekeeping or serving staff will see changes in their day-to-day interactions with residents.
“We are very sensitive to the fact that United is our residents’ home,” said Nicole. ”Should they need to go to the hospital we work with hospital staff to ensure that they have the health supports they need to come back home. Often, we will meet the hospital’s discharge team to advocate on a resident’s behalf,” said Nicole. She recalls one resident with cognitive difficulties who needed to go to the hospital. Nicole travelled with him to ensure he was with a familiar person during his stay. “We can be as involved as residents want us to be.”
Residents are empowered to make their own decisions about what is right for them, such as when they eat, what programs they attend, and the relationships they build. The benefit to this approach is that it supports residents in maintaining their independence in order to have a meaningful and fulfilling life. To this end, United has resident councils at both Garrison Green and Fish Creek.
“The council is a liaison between residents and staff. They listen to us about food, health, building maintenance and the social side such as arts and music programming. We have a lot of control over our own health. And it’s nice that staff are always walking around and are very approachable. They are so good with everyone,” said resident Jane Kelly who sits on the Garrison Green Resident’s Council.
“The medical world is turning more toward a person-centred approach, which involves taking into consideration a person’s desires, values and lifestyle, and working with that person to support their overall wellness,” said Nicole. “This is an approach that United has been working with for several years, and we see an ongoing benefit to the residents who are engaging more in community and creative pursuits. It’s an amazing place to work!”
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To learn more about life at United’s Garrison Green, watch this short video.