Loch Haven's cottages have become a popular option in Macon, MO.

The road Loch Haven Senior Living Community took to build the first skilled care cottages in Missouri wasn’t one less traveled. It was untraveled. 

But through research, planning, negotiation and execution, the Macon facility, located about 180 miles northwest of St. Louis, paved the way.

Loch Haven’s cottages were already approaching 90% occupancy in mid-September, despite having opened just four months earlier, according to Administrator Byron Freeman.

At 8,950 square feet each, the cottages were budgeted to cost $2.2 million but came in at $2.4 million. A $3 million project overall, the footprint covers less than three acres of the Loch Haven campus.

The exteriors are comparable to a large house. The interiors offer a home-like setting that is open and brightened with skylights. The 12 bedrooms/showers sit on three sides of the building. The rooms are on the small side for a reason.

“Your thought process is to draw people out and engage each other, and interact with each other, not just to survive day-to-day,” Freeman says. 

Residents have many areas available to them, including the hearth (social) room, an open kitchen, a dining room, a sunroom and outdoor patio, a beauty shop and therapy room with sauna. Internet access is hardwired into the bedrooms and library.

Loch Haven undertook the project to join the growing movement to create smaller communities for long-term care. The project was managed in-house, but the staff wasn’t afraid to seek advice.

“We visited with people in The Green House Project, and they were very helpful in giving us guidelines,” says Freeman. 

One challenge for the project was to convince state and federal regulators to allow the open kitchen.  

“It was important to us that the food prep area be open and central because there’s a lot of time by staff spent there preparing meals,” says architect Robert Rollings, who co-owns the Sedalia, MO, firm that worked on the project. “We also wanted the olfactory sense, the smells from the kitchen.”

A compromise walled in the cooking appliances. The area is further secured with a fire screen that engages if the fire alarm is triggered.

For staffing, the facility uses what Freeman calls a “universal work team.” Groups of two to four employees, which include a licensed nurse, work shifts around the clock. Each helps with household tasks such as laundry, cleaning and food preparation.

To excel in their expanded roles, the staff members received training that included conflict management, dietary management and team building.

The Loch Haven cottages have altered Rollings’ thinking.

“Most of us at some point in our lives say, ‘Boy, I hope I don’t end up in a nursing home,’” he reflects. “When the day comes, if I need to enter into a facility, I would have no hesitation at all going into a facility like this.”

Lessons learned

Get input from residents, staff and the community, and implement their ideas.

Keep lines of communication open with regulators, especially for new concepts.

Don’t be afraid to push existing limits to benefit your residents.