Focus on the resident

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Jill Gilbert
Jill Gilbert
Palm Garden in Ocala, FL, is a 180-bed skilled “living” facility where residents are known as “community members,” and the focus is on wellness, not illness. In the year since the facility has implemented its Empower with Choice program, the management has seen clinical improvements in nutrition and hydration, pain management, weight management, behavioral problems, overall resident engagement—and even staff retention!

Creating a ‘fun zone' 

Administrator Jennifer Mikula describes the biggest shift as “going from a medical model to a social model,” explaining that it's essential to take care of residents as people first, and as patients when necessary. Slot machines and Nintendo Wii games perk up the “fun zone,” while a waterfall and comfortable recliners populate the “quiet zone,” designed for reflection and meditation. Ninety-minute appointments in the “pamper zone” offer a choice of paraffin dips, aromatherapy, pedicures, manicures and massages, along with heated towels, bathrobes and slippers.

Clinical improvements

Since the program began, Mikula says. The number of members eating in designated dining areas rather than their rooms have increased to 110 from 33. And of the initial 20 members who had experienced significant weight loss since being admitted, all regained the weight they'd lost. In fact, 17 gained even more, and one member's functional abilities improved so dramatically that her family was able to take her home.

How is staff responding? Mikula says they love it, adding that many measures meant to improve quality of life for residents also have improved staff morale, and the numbers don't lie: Staff turnover has decreased to less than 5% (from 30%) during the past year!
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