The hospitality suite: Nursing homes adopt luxurious looks for short-stay patients

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The hospitality suite: Nursing homes adopt luxurious looks for short-stay patients
The hospitality suite: Nursing homes adopt luxurious looks for short-stay patients
Skilled nursing facilities are increasingly playing host to a new type of resident – a temporary occupant who needs a room for a week or two while undergoing rehabilitation, post-surgical recovery or another type of clinical therapy.
And while the furnishings for these short-stay units may not initially seem to have any bearing on the patient's progress, design specialists say they are actually an integral part of the healing environment.

“The length of stay does influence the furnishings used in a facility,” said Terri Prokop, design project manager for Stevens Point, WI-based Joerns Healthcare. “Short-term stay rooms are trending towards suites. This will typically include the basic room furnishings, along with a sitting area and small table.   These extra amenities are important to both residents and their families, giving them more luxurious accommodations while also supplying safe healthcare products that fit their needs.”

As a result, the short-term stay environment has become a vital part of the healthcare furnishings market, Prokop said. Because many short-term residents are baby boomers, facilities are looking to update these rooms to make them more appealing to this generation's sensibilities.

Reasonable elegance

“The environment they want is that of a resort, with larger beds, residential furnishings and a contemporary style for furniture pieces, artwork, upholstery, fabrics and electronics,” she said. “The more elegant accommodations that you can supply within a reasonable price point, the better the chance of filling these rooms.”

Tom Freeman, director of marketing for Conover, NC-based Legacy Furniture Group, points to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that project 60 million people—one-fifth of the population—will be age 65 or over in the year 2030. Post-acute care in skilled nursing facilities, hospital outpatient clinics and other specialty service centers will continue to grow so much that Freeman figures it translates into more than 400,000 bed and ancillary furnishing purchases in the sector.

“That is why we are devoting around 90 percent of our marketing efforts into this market,” he explained.
Freeman calls the short-term stay wing “the most stressful place in the building” and that providing a welcoming space for both residents and visitors can mitigate those negative feelings.

“Furniture has a lot to do with the feeling of well-being,” he said. “Accommodation of family and friends is so important to recovery, so we supply specialized guest seating and tables, along with sleepers and recliners in many short-term installations.”

Legacy offers sleepers and recliners as well as bedside cabinets and dressers for residents and seating and tables for visitors. All of the furnishings are easy to clean, he said, to prevent the spread of infectious disease.

“Short-term stay facilities are much like clinics in their higher traffic and increased opportunity for contagious diseases among an infirm population, so we always recommend the use of antimicrobial and antibacterial fabrics and vinyls to supplement antibacterial finishes and metal surfaces,” he said.

Furniture criteria

Design specialists say short-term stay room furniture should be aesthetically pleasing, comfortable, durable and functional for residents and their visitors. Moreover, they maintain that furnishings should be ergonomically beneficial in order to assist patients in their recovery.

“The furnishings included in a short-term stay suite need to meet the goals of the operator,” said Jeffrey Hertz, president of Schnecksville, PA-based Hertz Supply. “Since one of the goals of a short-stay environment is to return an individual to a normal functioning lifestyle as soon as possible, furnishings that assist in this process are essential.”

One of the company's bed lines is specifically designed for short-term suites because it allows a person to walk away from the end of the bed, encouraging a faster and less painful recovery process, Hertz said. Another bed offers a “stimulation” lying surface, enabling the patient to sit in bed with feet on the floor, so he or she can easily walk away.

Legacy's Freeman adds “comfort is king” with short-term stay furnishings.

Some models use special angles and mechanisms to assist in standing or sitting and allow shifting positions during extended stays for kidney dialysis or infusion therapy.

“Exciting new functionality” is being built into bed sleeping surfaces and comfort options such as wider sleep decks and electronically controlled positioning that moves the bed into a reclined seating position, says Dana Lingard, associate marketing manager for events at San Diego-based HD Supply Facilities Maintenance.
“Think of it as a bed that converts into a large, comfortable recliner chair,” she said.

Bariatric pieces

The obesity epidemic has fueled tremendous growth in bariatric medical products—larger, stronger versions with higher weight capacities. The trend has affected the furnishing market as well, Freeman said.

“Estimates are running as high as a 20 percent requirement for bariatric furnishings in acute care facilities, a requirement that will likely spill over into senior care,” he said. “Bariatric patients usually have bariatric family members visiting, so the need will not likely decrease. We have added bariatric chairs to most of our healthcare seating lines and even patented an expanding bariatric recliner/treatment chair to handle patients and ease the expense on facilities required to buy extra equipment.”

Prokop, Hertz and Lingard also acknowledge heightened demand for bariatric-grade products. The key to these products, they say, is that they conform to bariatric standards without looking “institutional.”
‘Ancillary' features

Beyond furniture, equipment like high-definition televisions are also a necessary feature of the short-term suite, said Tim Wright, director of commercial healthcare for LG Electronics USA's Business Solutions Division in San Diego.

“Just like with hotels, consumers seek out the creature comforts of home,” he said. “Nowhere is that more important than in a short-term care environment where comfort is critical to a resident's health and well-being.”

The HDTV revolution in the consumer marketplace, featuring sleek high-definition flat screen sets, has elevated television viewing to a new level—one that short-term suite residents now expect, Wright said.

“TV technology is transforming furniture options,” he said. “Big, old picture sets in bulky cabinets or giant armoires in the living room are rapidly being replaced by the new flat-panel HDTVs that are hung on the wall or from the ceiling, freeing up valuable living space. Furniture manufacturers also are responding to this trend with stylish new credenzas for the thin new TVs, both for common areas and in patient rooms.”

All eyes on TV

Emily Marchbanks, marketing coordinator for Raleigh, NC-based Bulk TV & Internet, calls the television “the most noticeable feature in the room” and that the bulky set boxes offered by some cable companies can clash with the room's aesthetics.

“A headend system provided by Bulk TV eliminates the set-top box, which is in line with the sleek design a lot of short-term suites are trying to portray,” she said.

Covering all bases

Flooring is another important consideration for room design, adds Clarence Porch, market manager for LaGrange, GA-based Milliken Carpet. Modular carpeting is ideal for the short-stay environment, he said, because it offers flexibility: If a carpet tile is damaged, in-house staff can instantly and easily replace it with a new tile.  An adhesive-free carpet backing can be installed over hard surface floors without damaging the original substrate.

“The short-stay environment has always been a target growth area for flooring suppliers,” he said. “Shrinking budgets have forced facility managers to find cost-effective alternatives to traditional architectural detailing. The floor occupies the largest interior area, providing the greatest opportunity to shape and compose a powerful image.”