(Photo courtesy of the Households at Levindale)
At the Households at Levindale in Baltimore, a six-building complex that serves as many as 84 residents, thereís no such thing as a typical day.
The Households at Levindale donít look like traditional nursing homes, and they donít function like them either.
"What makes it different is the kitchen area," said Gloria Blackmon, RN-BC, BSN, director of long-term care. "Itís set up as a very large, community-type kitchen. You can sit in there, drink your coffee, read your newspaper, chat with friends, just like you would at home.
"The other aspect is thereís no immediate time that you have to eat your breakfast, lunch and dinner. They get up when they want to get up. They eat when they want to eat. They go to bed when they want to go to bed. Itís a lot more about preferences and choices."
The Households at Levindale, a $31 million expansion project that opened this year, are part of Lifebridge Healthís Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital.
About 12 years ago, Levindale began using the neighborhood concept of care, which broke the facility down into smaller communities served by a specific group of staff members for each neighborhood. Each of these smaller units is overseen by a neighborhood leader, who serves in a non-nursing, administrative role.
Residents who came from the previous building to the Households had become set in their ways, especially when it came to meals, according to staff.
"You still see how institutionalized people were," Blackmon said.
"They all lined up for lunch like they normally did. We were like, 'No you donít have to eat lunch if you donít want to.í And they would say, 'Whatever is the best time for you.í And weíd say, 'No, itís about you.í We have seen that improve. It was very hard for residents to choose for themselves."
Working in the Households requires nurses to go about their daily routine differently, as well.
Not only are the nurses given more freedom regarding such things as scheduling of hours, but they are expected to be more like family members than nurses to the residents.
"It gives them an opportunity to be empowered," said Clinical Leader Amy Boulware, RN. "They have more of a chance to grow and make decisions. Previously, it was all dictated out. But they now decide how their assignments will look; whether they want assignments.
"Itís very positive for residents. They feel like theyíre in a hotel. ... They feel like theyíre being pampered, and thatís what we want."
Boulware said it wasnít easy for some RNs to adjust to being so involved in the residentsí lives.
Harris, who works in a unit for residents with dementia, has been with Levindale for five years.
"I love working here in the Households," she said.
"Itís so much different from where [I] and the residents came from. We clean. We do housekeeping. We help at mealtime. We wash residentsí clothes. We put them away. We do everything in this household.
"One thing I notice," Harris said, "youíre not doing the same thing where you can get tired or bored with it. Youíre doing several things. It keeps you motivated."
Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.
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