Design Decisions: Focus on resident privacy

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Unless they request it, residents at Sunny Hill Nursing Home will no longer have to share a room, thanks to the latest phase of reconstruction at the Joliet, IL-based facility. 

The ongoing project, estimated at $31 million through December 2016, is part of what management considers a growing industry trend.

“Ask any resident what they want and they will say ‘a private room,'” says Sunny Hill Administrator Karen Sorbero.

The building, comprising six residential “avenues,” is licensed for 227 beds and typically holds between 175 and 180 residents. After the conversion to private rooms, there will be 156 beds, with six units of 26 residents each. This includes 20 private rooms and three semi-private rooms for married residents, residents who want to share a room, and residents who need extra supervision.

Overseen by the Will County Board, creation of the private rooms is the latest phase of a 13-year renovation and culture change initiative that strives to make the 46-year-old facility more “resident-centered” and “more home-like.”

“There is not one inch of this facility that has not been touched by renovation,” Sorbero says.

The private room project stems from resident feedback on how to make the facility more comfortable.

“The one continual thread was ‘more privacy,'” Sorbero says. “It hasn't always been an option, but now that we're in the final phase of renovation, we laid the groundwork and received the needed approvals to move ahead with it.”

Private, neighboring rooms will share a bathroom — a compromise that residents have accepted, directors say. As part of the project, the bathrooms were upgraded to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

More than half of Sunny Hill's residents are on Medicaid, and a current state budget stalemate has created a payment shortfall of more than $2 million. By switching to private rooms, the facility is expected to save approximately $1.2 million annually, Sorbero says.

Board member Judy Ogalla, who has two family members at Sunny Hill, is excited about the conversion to private rooms.

“I think it's great — it's a trend,” she says. “Many residents come to the nursing home from a hospital, where they had a private room. The timing is right.”

Over the years, the facility upgraded each of its six avenues and completed a $4 million renovation to its kitchen. The sweeping remodel, led by local architectural and engineering firm The Farnsworth Group, also included all resident common areas, the front lobby, therapy wing, staff offices, dining area, conference room, medical clinic, outdoor areas and utilities. Even the loading dock received a facelift.

Utility and infrastructure upgrades include HVAC, electrical, plumbing, flooring, finishes, beds, furniture, expanded unit day rooms, shower rooms, nursing station, public and staff washrooms, and a soiled-utility room.