Household care

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Staff photos by Joshua Curry

The Davis Community’s Health Care Center is undergoing a building and remodeling transformation to create 10 home environments. Two new households feature custom interiors by Big Sky Design that include large common areas with a double fireplace and residential-style kitchens. Designed by Bruce Bowman of Bowman Murray Hemingway Architects and constructed by Monteith Construction Company, the opening of the Walker Taylor House and the Sinclair-Hogue House signal the end of Phase I.

Situated on a 50-acre campus just up the road from Eagle Point golf course in Porters Neck, the Davis Community is pioneering an approach to skilled nursing care facilities that is aiming to change the stuffy, institutional atmosphere that typifies many nursing homes. 

The new emphasis will be on resident involvement, building a sense of community and offering a range of new amenities, so that the new residential communities will boast a more intimate, decentralized approach to retirement care. Cindy Edgell, the center’s director of nursing, described how the Davis Community’s new model differs from those of traditional nursing care facilities.

“Typically, we used to be modeled after hospitals,” she said. “You would come into a nursing home, and there are these long, clinical corridors with a nursing station way up there, and you’re living next to 60 of your BFFs. Here, we have a living room, dining room, kitchen, and everyone who wants to can participate. The goal here was to decentralize, deinstitutionalize, and bring us down to a household family.”

That, Edgell said, applies to both the residents and the staff. 

“The beautiful thing is no longer do we hear ‘that’s not my patient.’ Everyone has a clear understanding of each resident’s continuum,” she said.

In June, the Davis Community officially opened its two latest additions: the Walker Taylor House and the Sinclair-Hogue House, named after three major supporters of the nonprofit community. While the two new buildings are separate from the rest of the facilities, future construction and design will be focused on expanding and remodeling the existing building, which currently houses 199 beds arranged in long corridors.

Jennifer Kraner, an interior designer and president of Big Sky Design, explained how this project has been different from other skilled nursing facilities.

“Whether they’re traditional or contemporary, or more reminiscent of a beach house or a home in downtown Wilmington, each household had its own interior design concept,” she said. “We were able to combine our residential and commercial design experience to create an appropriate interior that replicated a home environment, but at the same time was as commercially durable as necessary.”

Examples included features such as a faux wood matched with a patterned carpet, which was backed by a vinyl flooring technology similar to the easy-to-clean flooring found in many hospitals. Kraner also described the emphasis on less utilitarian touches, or “softer elements,” which included light, subdued colors, paintings and decorative accessories.

Kraner said she was excited to be a part of the new concept. 

“I love the idea, how they have a smaller group of residents who are going to be in each unique household,” she said. To think that if you’re a resident in one community going to visit somebody in another area, you would actually feel like you’re going in to a different place. I think that will really add to their day-to-day experience there.”

Julie Rehder, marketing and community relations administrator, said the process began five years ago, when the nursing home convened a committee of residents, their family members, and staff members to kick off long-term strategic planning.

“We got everyone together and we said ‘OK, these are the things we believe in. How do we make it happen?’ We decided to use the household care model, and had staff visit a number of places across the country that were already doing this,” Rehder said. “There’s no cookie-cutter approach. There are four or five different models, but it really depends on who you have in your house.”

The result was a plan for a five-phase, $26 million remodeling and construction effort to revamp both the physical living environment and the manner in which the community itself is organized. When complete, the Davis Community will have nine 24-member households, with each one built around common areas designed to establish a sense of community.

Bruce Bowman, principal with BMH Architects in Wilmington, described the design as a 180-degree shift from the traditional, institutional model. 

“Everything is done on a smaller scale. Once you get out of that large-scale nursing and delivering service en masse, you improve the quality of service,” he said. “It’s not the nursing home you might remember your grandparents staying in.” 

Amenities in each residence will include a wheelchair-accessible spa, open kitchens where residents are welcome to help prepare meals and even a community pub for Davis Community residents to enjoy an afternoon cocktail. Rehder hopes that this model will also enable the Davis Community to keep things lively for some of the residents who refuse to slow down for old age.

“We have a group of men who are still very interested in the ladies,” Rehder said “Our activities director takes the R.O.M.E.O.’s – Retired Old Men Eating Out – to Hooters every month. They love it; they still just want to have life. It’s just part of who they are.”

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