Lasting impressions

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Lasting impressions
Lasting impressions

Furniture carries a heavy burden in the long-term care setting. It not only has to supply functionality for frail and elderly residents, it also has to meet their tastes. In addition, it has to appeal to family members or anyone else who might be involved in the admitting process.

Furnishings also play a huge role when it comes to first impressions, whether they're being made of a lobby or resident's room. How prospective residents respond to the facility may be based on furnishings' appeal factor, notes Michael Zusman, CEO of Atlanta-based Kwalu.

“First impressions are critical,” he notes. “Lobbies and lounges are often the first items potential customers and guests see in a facility, making this an important area for attention and focus in the design process.”

With so many styles and models of furniture to select from, choosing the pieces that best represent the desired aesthetic while providing comfort and durability can seem like an intimidating challenge. Even more critical in this economically sensitive era is finding furniture that meets the facility's criteria without busting the budget.

Yet the purchasing decision becomes easier when the facility operator employs due diligence and pragmatism in the selection process, Zusman says.

“A facility that takes time to think through resident and guest needs is a facility that will benefit from lasting solutions,” he says. “Developing an overall strategy for look, feel and functionality will ultimately result in successful spaces that assist in day-to-day tasks and attract visitors, residents and staff alike.”

Kwalu's stock in trade is durable furniture that withstands years of heavy use, and Zusman declares this longevity defines its value. The company's Virtually Indestructible line includes seating, case goods, tables and wall protection.

“Most eye-catching spaces incorporate a warm and inviting atmosphere with functionality that accounts for the wear and tear of continual abuse,” he says. “Selecting durable yet stylish furniture is the key to success.”

Other features of high-value furniture are easy maintenance and simple cleaning, Zusman adds.

Because residents are the primary users of the furniture, it makes perfect sense to consult them about their preferences when purchasing new pieces. Allowing residents to try out new furniture and collecting their opinions about it can be very helpful in making a decision, while fostering goodwill among residents.

For example, at North Providence, RI-based Hopkins Manor, resident feedback has helped transform the dining room so that diners who use wheelchairs only can have a comfortable place to eat and socialize. Administrator Mark Levesque says the benefits of the new design have “far exceeded anything we could have imagined for our dining hall.”

Look and feel

Because options for furnishing lounge and lobby areas seem limitless, Zusman recommends facilities take an “integrated approach.” They should look at waiting areas, resident, dining and activity rooms, and corridors.

“Incorporating color waves and collection styles along with determining whether a facility is traditional, contemporary or somewhere in-between goes a long way in establishing a facility's overall look and feel,” Zusman says.

By focusing on manufacturing their Basic American and Lumex furniture lines in the U.S., Atlanta-based Graham-Field is touting the benefits to its customers through a program it calls the “Back in the USA Strategic Initiative.”

More options wanted

“Our customers are looking for unique products, greater flexibility relative to product features, and more efficient logistics,” says Lawrence de la Haba, senior vice president of business development. “Domestic manufacturing allows us to meet these needs. There are definite advantages to having products manufactured and assembled in the United States. The logistics are more streamlined, you have greater production run flexibility and you can more easily customize products in response to customer requirements.”

The first product produced under this initiative is the Patriot Homecare Bed, in which the sleep surface is produced at the Graham-Field plant in Fond du Lac, WI. Utilizing CAD/CAM design processes and robotic welding, the facility has traditionally produced beds for the long-term care market under the Basic American nameplate.

When seeking value from a furniture line, de la Haba advises prospective customers take a multifaceted look at products instead of merely fixating on price.

“One of the challenges we face is that some of our products have become commodities due to the ever-changing reimbursement environment,” de la Haba explains. “While this is the nature of a very competitive market, remaining a commodity is not. Our product management team and design engineers are constantly challenging the status quo relative to the features and benefits of our product lines.”

Another part of the USA initiative is Graham-Field's joint venture with Jacksonville, FL-based Pressure Management Group, which includes a new 25,000- square-foot plant that will serve as the manufacturing, assembly and research and development facility for Lumex Specialty Healthcare Seating.

Since the mid-1960s, Lumex has manufactured specialty healthcare seating products in the United States and is one of the major product lines with significant potential for growth, according to PMG President Kessler Colson.

“We wanted to put the ‘specialty' back into the Lumex line of specialty healthcare seating,” he notes.

“Seating used in clinical and long-term care settings must be comfortable, durable and easily maintained. When Graham-Field and PMG first started discussing this project, we recognized that one of the key components of the product line was the upholstery. Our expertise is in pressure management technology, sewing and foam fabrication. We were able to immediately improve the comfort and ‘feel' of the upholstery used on the Lumex seating products.

“Having the upholstery produced domestically also allows for a much better service experience. Our ability to replace and service upholstery components of seating products already in use will also be greatly enhanced.”

Designs with a purpose

Specialty healthcare seating is specifically designed for use in oncology, dialysis, patient care, same-day surgery and many other clinical areas.

“These unique seating products must be able to meet the needs of both patients and caregivers,” de la Haba says.
“In addition, interior designers and facility managers are playing an increasing role in the selection of seating that is being used in healthcare facilities. The seating must not only be functional but also fit into the décor of the facility and help increase the perception of quality that top-flight institutions are trying to deliver.

“The look, fit and finish of every product becomes a consideration. Seating is no longer an afterthought. It must be an integral part of the facility's design.”

Environmental consciousness isn't just a social movement. It is an economically sound practice designed to curtail utilization costs as well as reducing waste.

Recognizing heightened consumer demand for “green” products, San Diego-based HD Supply Facilities Maintenance has launched ideallygreen, a company-wide program used to identify products that are “eco-preferable.” To earn the label, the product must earn certification from a third party, such as Energy Star, or be identified as a green alternative to a similar product.

HD Supply offers more than 1,200 environmentally preferable products and, through the ideallygreen program, provides ideas and recommendations to reduce a facility's impact on the environment. Appliances and lighting are among the simplest purchases, but they can help boost an organization's bottom line through lower energy usage.

In addition to the new products, HD's 2010 catalog highlights the company's extensive free customer training program.

“In 2009, we provided training to more than 50,000 maintenance professionals on topics ranging from pool care to appliance repair to ideallygreen conservation maintenance,” says Anesa Chaibi, president of HD Supply Facilities Maintenance.
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