Design Decisions: A hospitality twist

A lot went smoothly for the development of the Life Care Center at Ooltewah: Architect Bob Franklin had worked on eight skilled nursing facilities for the nursing home chain since 2008, and the design philosophy was well established. 

Plans would come to include an elaborate courtyard, a large upscale dining room, library, and a modern and spacious gym for rehabilitation.

But there was one snag before the building could come to fruition: The site had a “very small” family cemetery sitting on it. Franklin, who oversees Franklin Architects, says there are “ways to handle” such relocation issues that are respectful. 

It was the biggest challenge the team faced, and after that, it was all systems go for the site, which is 20 miles east of Chattanooga, just off Highway 75. The building opened in February 2013.

Franklin commended the building's interior design team, noting how Life Care Centers of America  considers “every detail down to the bedspread.”

“They aren't just stamped out. Each designer brings individual flare,” Franklin notes.

Interior designer Megan Jones also laid out the neighboring Life Care Center assisted living center, The Bridge at Ooltewah. She says there is a team effort in making the centers thrive.

“Everybody is putting their minds together,” she says, from the selection of a courtyard statue to how she designed sample rooms. She chose rusty and terracotta colors for the SNF. A spa area, for example, features tile and flooring that reflects the color scheme, she says.

The skilled nursing facility, which has 70 private rooms and 25 semi-private rooms, is easy to navigate. Amenities include flat-screen televisions with a speaker by the bedside, and heat lamps in the showers.

All rooms have a window view, and a physician suite was built into the plans, former administrator Ginger Crawford said. The dining area includes carpet and an array of menu options, such as an “always available” option for food.

“Patients can stay in their rooms for meals, but we encourage them to get out,” she said. The dining area also has a private room for celebrations, and a separate ice cream parlor, which is a big hit with families. Open from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the ice cream “helps promote calorie intake,” for residents, she added.

Ooltewah encourages families to spend their downtime or work hours there, with Crawford noting the Wi-Fi in the library area allows some to bring their laptops. 

The rehabilitation area includes an anti-gravity treadmill, and it has a separate entrance for those receiving outpatient services. Franklin notes how the center “has got some of the best equipment” and that the site also maximizes the ability to be outdoors.

“There's a putting green and physical therapy courtyard, and the whole courtyard has different walking surfaces,” he notes. “As someone is recovering, you can take them over concrete, gravel or steps.”

The bottom line, Franklin says, is the center is “a homelike environment with a hospitality twist.” 

Lessons learned

1. Make sure to talk to community leaders, as they often end up becoming local champions.

2. Courtyards are a huge plus for families, making them want to spend time at the facility.

3. Don't focus only on meals and forget treats: An ice cream parlor can be a big hit.


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