Friday, October 15, 2010

Will your nursing home survive the culture change and MDS 3.0? (part 2)

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This conceptual makeover is just one reflection of an ongoing culture change in the long-term care industry. The goal is now to promote senior independence and to ensure that elders spend their final days, months and years more meaningfully.

Improvement is vital, as baby boomers are now retiring in droves, quickly becoming our next generation of the elderly. And average U.S. life expectancy has increased — from 69.6 years in 1955, to about 78 years today, which, to put it bluntly, means more time spent being old.

Elvis has left the building

Thank you. Thank you very much. Did y’all enjoy that trip to Hawaii?” asks Richard Smith, Elvis impersonator.

On this Friday afternoon in March, he is wrapping up his Blue Hawaii set for the residents of Columbia Manor Care Center, one of the smallest senior facilities in Boone County. About 25 of its 50 or so elders, primarily women, have gathered in the living room to watch the King perform.

He is wearing pointy-toed white shoes, a royal blue scarf draped over a studded, light blue jumpsuit, and a Donald Trump-like reshuffling of his own hair.

“Now we’re gonna go back to the Vegas years,” he declares.

An instrumental version of “Don’t Be Cruel” kicks up on the sound amplifier, and Smith resumes crooning into his microphone. The next set includes lesser-known songs interspersed with crowd-pleasers such as “Return to Sender,” “Viva Las Vegas” and “Fools Rush In.”

Whoops and hollers erupt from a huddle of nursing staff wearing multicolored Crocs and cartoon-print scrubs whenever Elvis shimmies or delivers a subtle foot kick on the occasional downbeat.

“Thank you!” somebody catcalls during “Suspicious Minds” after Elvis graces the crowd with a prolonged sequence of gyrations.

The residents are more tranquil. A few women have their eyes closed, and one woman is unable to hold her head up.

But the performance reaches Judith Steffenauer, 64, who remembers owning all of Elvis’ albums and seeing all of his movies, and it delights the thin, attentive woman sitting near the front, who received a peck on the cheek from Smith during a slow song and charmingly declared after his performance that she “wasn’t gonna wash her face” that evening.

There’s a palpable letdown after the show as nurses roll wheelchairs through hallways and into bedrooms for afternoon naps, push sofa chairs back into place, and flip on the TV in the living room.

Some residents stick around to watch afternoon talk shows, and one woman takes out a crossword puzzle book.

The nursing staff return to work, kindly asking residents in the hallways if they enjoyed the performance, and one nurse observes, for whoever happens to be listening, that “Elvis has left the building.”

The ‘B’ word

I think a lot of people think fun is easy,” said Tammie Henderson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy and now works as administrator of a Brookfield senior home. “And it’s very hard to plan fun.”

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