Instead of socializing in a hallway and rushing to eat in 20 minutes, Glendale Home residents will now have living rooms and dining rooms more reminiscent of an upscale college campus than a nursing home.
County officials triumphantly unveiled the new Glendale Home Wednesday, showcasing all the ways in which residents’ lives will be improved when they move in on Monday.
It was nine years in the making, from county Legislature debates to final construction. The facility was expected to cost $50 million, but came in $5 million under budget, County Attorney Chris Gardner said.
While residents were dubious — one said she’d rather stay in the old facility, because she’s “used to it” — their families were wowed.
“It’s like night and day,” said Colleen Sullivan, whose mother-in-law and father-in-law live at the nursing home. “She’s been very sick. I think this will lift her spirits.”
The new building is made up of five wings, called neighborhoods. Inside each are three households of 13 to 14 people, who share a living room with a fireplace, comfortable chairs and doors overlooking a patio or balcony.
“I can see her sitting right here,” Sullivan said happily. “Rather than in the hallway!”
Right now, residents cluster in the hallways near the nursing stations, Director Edmond Marchi said.
He’s particularly proud of the new dining arrangements. Residents can go to their household’s dining room at any time during a two-hour window at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Currently, they have just 20 minutes to get up and eat at each meal.
Marchi said very few nursing homes offer leisurely, choose-your-own-time meals.
“This is like the next generation of long-term care,” he said. “We can honor natural waking cycles. It’s bad enough going to a nursing home, but imagine if you have to change your whole routine.”
Residents and visitors can also get small meals at a fast-food cafe. Food there will be free for residents, but visitors can buy their own and join their relatives for a meal.
Unlike the old facility, residents will also have private rooms, each with their own bathroom.
That’s very rare in nursing homes today, Marchi said.
The new building has a few shared rooms for couples and a few roommates who specifically asked to stay together.
The private bathrooms will be the biggest change. In some parts of the old building, five or six rooms share one bathroom. If a resident needs to be cleaned up in the middle of the night, nurses use bed baths because of the shared-bathroom situation, Marchi said. Many of the old facility’s beds are also moved with cranks, while the new ones can raise and lower with the touch of a button.
The new home will give each resident more privacy, dignity and as much independence as they can manage, Marchi said.
Each resident will also get their own laundry bag, and workers will use small washing machines that are only big enough for one person’s clothes. That will significantly reduce lost clothing, Marchi said, and reduce the man hours needed now to sort clothing for each room after many residents’ items are washed together in huge machines.
Another major change will be the noise level in the facility.
Workers will be using wireless phones to communicate. There is no overhead pager system in the new facility.
If there’s a medical emergency in one household, none of the other households will be woken up with the announcement, he said. Workers will also have their own office space, instead of using a community room as a break room and holding meetings in public.
“Think of the ambience. Calming, quiet,” he said. “All of that stimulation that has proven to be very bad for Alzheimer’s patients — this will be very calm, quiet,” he said.
He’s also hoping many more visitors come to the new facility.
“It doesn’t look like a scary place,” he said. “Their grandchildren won’t be scared.”
And it may bring more comfort to the elderly in their final years.
Even the little things — like televisions mounted on the wall for every resident — make a big difference, said County Attorney Chris Gardner.
His father, who lived at Glendale, could barely see his TV. The only place to put it was at an awkward angle from his bed, Gardner said.
“It’s the little things that make life more enjoyable,” he said.
And the big things.
His father died at Glendale four years ago of pneumonia on a sweltering day.
It was 95 degrees outside, and about 85 degrees in his father’s room.
“They have air conditioning, but it doesn’t work too well,” he said. “We were running around trying to get a fan to help him breathe better.”
Now his mother needs skilled nursing care, and he’s facing the decision to move her to Glendale.
“I feel a lot better about bringing her here,” he said after touring the new building.