Helping Older Adults Continue to Age Gracefully in Place
Did you know that 70% of Americans over the age of 65 will require either long-term care or nursing home care in their lifetime? Deciding to place a loved one in an alternative living situation can be a challenging one. Unfortunately, many families end up delaying the decision until the choice is no longer their own. Before life decides for you, do your research while you still have the (luxury) of time. When a loved one is no longer able to function independently, there are facilities like the Wilf Campus for Senior Living that can ease this process. After all, the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your loved ones are being cared for is life-changing for all parties involved.
Recently, a partnership was announced between the Wilf Campus for Senior Living and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s Division of Geriatrics and General Internal Medicine. This promises to raise the bar even higher on their level of care. Last summer, Wilf revealed the expansion of its Memory Care program that included the addition of a new Transitional Care Neighborhood for those people with mild to early signs of memory loss or dementia. Although not quite ready to move into a full Memory Care program like their Stein Assisted Living Center, it offers a secure Memory Care unit that has 24-hour supervision by specially trained staff.
Jean Leone, Vice President of Operation/ Clinical Compliance Officer and Stein Assisted Living Administrator adds, “The partnership with Robert Wood Johnson Medical School will bring focused and individualized medical consultative oversight and expertise in evidence-based care for our residents.”
What was the intention behind the partnership with Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School?
Jean: The intention behind everything we do is about enhancing the quality of life and well-being of those individuals exhibiting cognitive decline, memory loss, and other early signs of dementia through a holistic and integrative approach. We embrace the Eden Alternative Domains/Philosophy, which has been implemented at Stein Assisted Living. This allows our residents to age in place with dignity and respect. The philosophy is focused on the human spirit as well as the care of the human body.
How did the partnership with RWJ begin?
Jean: We were looking to partner with a group of interdisciplinary colleagues, educators, and practitioners that share our passion and commitment to join our community in providing individuals exhibiting cognitive decline, increased memory loss, and other behavioral changes associated with dementia, person-centered and directed care. This includes developing a new model of care, and education for caregivers loved ones, and staff. The relationship between the patient and the care team is viewed as a partnership. After meeting with the core RWJMS team we quickly realized there was synchronicity.
What else do you hope the partnership will accomplish?
Jean: The initial focus will be on those individuals displaying early signs of dementia, those already residing in the Transitional Care Neighborhood at Stein Assisted Living, and those with advanced dementia residing in their secure neighborhood at Stein Assisted Living. With the new partnership, the medical school faculty will oversee residents’ comprehensive geriatric and dementia assessment and collaborate with the primary physician. Ongoing dementia wellness assessments will be held with families as well.
Stein Assisted Living will offer presentations on cognitive impairment topics and medical school faculty will be on-site at Stein Assisted Living to conduct assessments and identify those individuals who may be appropriate for clinical trials in dementia and non-related fields. Additionally, in partnership with our administrator, medical director, and nursing staff, Rutgers will provide education and training to staff, policy reviews, advisement in dementia care policies, as well as quality assurance and performance improvement.
What is the process for selecting residents for clinical trials?
Jean: After a comprehensive history that includes a review of previous medical records, a meeting with family and loved ones are set. There will be a cognitive assessment, behavioral and psychological assessment, a physical assessment, medication review, and nutritional communication with other physicians and specialists involved, and then a case conference is scheduled. The Medical and Clinical Team, along with the attending Physician review the findings and if the individual meets the criteria for a specific clinical trial, a recommendation will be made.
What are the characteristics of the Transitional Care Neighborhood and how does it differ from the secure unit?
Jean: The transitional unit is an area within “the community” that is made up of two hallways with private rooms. Although this is not a closed secure unit, residents do have their dining area if they chose to stay within the area and a dedicated Resident Engagement Coordinator that is Dementia Certified and trained in specific activities that are intended to enhance cognition. Every aesthetic detail was carefully planned out right down to the paint colors and decor. Specific colors were chosen based on a pallet of hues that research shows improve well-being in a myriad of areas. We also have an outdoor garden and water feature created so individuals can enjoy being out in nature.
How will you devise the dementia care policies for this new endeavor?
Jean: Our policies have always followed best practice standards. We will continue to collaborate with Dr. Karthik Kota, Assistant Professor at the Medical school, as well as the rest of the RWJMS team. Specific policies will be devised especially since we are developing this model of care. All policies currently in place are within the regulatory and clinical requirements and follow a standard of care practice policy. The staff at Stein Assisted Living realizes that each resident is unique and therefore, so is their journey. Each has their individualized plan of care, which continues to be evaluated to ensure the evolving needs of the residents are met.
What short-term goals do you foresee as part of this collaboration?
Jean: The main goal is to engage our community and continue to develop practice protocols and individualized care plans. We plan on developing specific assessment tools, establishing a core database to track interventions and progress, and outcomes, (to measure progress). We are also looking to provide targeted and culturally sensitive training and education. Finally, we will meet with the family and loved ones of the individuals within the transitional program.
The Wilf Campus is committed to providing education on cognitive impairment topics to the general community and there are plans for support groups on-site as well. The new transitional program, combined with the medical school partnership, will further the organization’s mission of allowing its residents to age in place in their home at Stein Assisted Living, with dignity and compassionate care, regardless of their cognitive abilities.
Gena Ansell-Lande is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.