How to do it... Flexible furnishing

1. Facilities are challenged by choosing furnishings that serve the broadest possible uses while blending well with ever-changing decors and styles, according to Matt Hutchens, of Direct Supply's Maxwell Thomas. 

It's best to choose suppliers who are committed to your unique needs, adds Troy Rabbett of Flexsteel Industries.

Considerations include durability and strength. Steel-reinforced seating can accommodate residents of myriad weights and sizes while adding longevity and cleanability, says Todd Klumph of Cooltree. Consider wood-toned features that blend well, he says. 

Look for maximum adjustability in bed frames, advises Nick Haralambis, RN,  of HD Supply Facilities Maintenance. Other must-haves include adjustable seat depths and heights and easy-to-grasp armrests, adds Hutchens. Space saving features include wall-mounted desks. 

“Facilities need to pack more in smaller areas than ever before, and square footage equals reimbursement,” adds Klumph. 

2. Look for furnishings that will work as well in a private room as a common area.

“For marketability reasons, many are putting their resources into common spaces. But it's how you use the space in your community,” says Ashley Kent of Direct Supply. “Furniture that can be used in many ways helps maximize the flexibility in multipurpose spaces that serve a diverse population.”

3. Flexibility means accommodating residents with multiple conditions. Nowhere is that more evident than bariatrics. “Bariatric products are always at the forefront of a manufacturers mindset relative to weight capacity and overall aesthetic so as not to differentiate the styling of the products for a larger person,” says Chris Silguero at Hekman Contract, a Howard Miller company. 

Kent says resident dignity is “incredibly important. Variably sized dining and lounge chairs with a cohesive look are commonly purchased by communities so bariatric residents are not singled out.”

Adds Marv Smith, president and owner of Optima Products, “It's better to have a wider chair that will accommodate both large and normal-sized residents because it's a little disconcerting if a bariatric resident comes in and sits in an 18-inch-wide chair and someone says, ‘Martha, you're too big for that chair.'”

It's not uncommon to find attractive seating that can adjust to accommodate a 500-pound resident as effortlessly as a frail one, says Joe Oberle of Drive Medical. 

4. Look for adjustable seating that “accommodates a wide array of heights, sizes, widths and weights and can be adjusted to fit specific residents and reassigned at a later date to accommodate someone else,” Smith advises.

“Many senior living communities are trying to maximize their furniture spend by curating a variety of seating options,” says Kent. “For every one sofa, customers generally buy four lounge chairs with varying back, leg and arm heights to accommodate a spectrum of resident needs and preferences.” 

Kwalu CEO Michael Zusman  urges providers to take special care with petite residents when choosing seating “with smaller scaled dimensions, so the resident doesn't slide around in the seat and they are not sitting so high that their feet do not touch the floor.”

5. Keep safety issues uppermost when choosing flexible furnishings. Look for extra-strong armrests and ensure your seating won't tip or slide when a resident grabs the chair arm. Gliders should have features that lock until the resident is seated and leans back, Smith cautions.

Additionally, look for furnishings that incorporate as many passive adjustments as possible, he adds. And wall-mounted handrails that incorporate increased weight tolerances, says Jim McLain of Eldercare Interiors.