Early “Sopranos” watchers well remember Tony Soprano imploring his mother to move to Green Groves by telling her, over and over, that “it’s not a nursing home, it’s a retirement community!”
Livia Soprano was convinced her son was condemning her to a place that would be confining, institutional and regimented. It’s the image too many people, in real life, have of nursing homes – whether they’re called senior care, nursing residences or Tony Soprano’s “retirement community.”
It’s an image the Masonic Homes of Kentucky pledged to eradicate for its growing constituency of Louisvillians with special needs, nursing and medical requirements, and age-related difficulties they can no longer deal with on their own. And the new $40 million Sam Swope Care Center, which will be ready for full operations in early 2011, is walking the talk.
The comfortable, light, airy, modern 196,000-square-foot facility was truly designed with the resident in mind. Hallways are wide and accessible. Residences are bright and comfortable. The grounds are filled with landscaping and fountains, and views of the grounds are spacious and attractive. All the public facilities – lobbies, lounges, dining rooms, even retail – have been designed to be inviting not only to the residents but also to visiting families and guests.
Individual pharmaceutical needs are placed in each resident’s apartment so there are no longer medicine carts prowling the hallways. A system of elevators was designed to get the meals to each floor without the old, institutional tray wagons in the halls.
“After all,” said Lori Hess, executive director and administrator of Masonic Home of Louisville, “you don’t have medical carts and cafeteria wagons in your home.”
Hess said the old facility design was meant to be efficient for staff and operations. “We’ve put the needs of the residents first, where they ought to be,” she said.
Some of the changes – which Hess referred to as “cultural shifts” – are subtle. For example, guests first come into an entry lobby. A long corridor, called “Main Street,” separates the residences from the lobby, so residents feel their privacy is being protected. The brightly lit Main Street has cobblestone-themed carpeting to differentiate it, with an illuminated sky blue ceiling to emulate the outdoors, and there are various public areas along the way, such as lounges, libraries, a gift shop and a counter selling Graeter’s ice cream. There’s even a children’s play area on the landscaped grounds so families are happy to visit their loved ones and residents are more likely to walk outside and take in the fresh air.
“If residents are accustomed to sleeping until 11 in the morning at home and then having a bowl of ice cream, we allow them to do that here,” Hess said. “They’re living here, they’re not confined here.”
Cafeterias are stocked with each resident’s favorite kind of cereal or jelly or ice cream or anything else they want – just like at home.
The wood furniture in each residence was carefully selected for comfort, durability and warmth. Institutional soap and towel dispensers were replaced with the kinds people have in their own homes. Hess even took the bed linens and towels home with her to test, launder and feel.
The center is designed to provide care for 136 adults. Entry is provided anyone with a physician’s referral and most insurance plans are accepted. Each of the wings accommodates specific medical conditions, so memory care residents are all together, as are short-stay rehabilitation and recovery residents and long-term care residents. The wings were named after significant donors: Nancy and Jim Judy, Rita and Gary Marsh, Stephanie and Martin Walters.
There is also an inpatient and outpatient kidney dialysis service operated by Fresenius Medical Care, and hospice and palliative care.
The facility was named for Louisville automobile tycoon Sam Swope, a member of the Masonic fraternity for 50 years who became honorary chairman of the capital campaign committee when the new center was being envisioned.
The Masonic Widows and Orphans Home was established in 1867, on Second and Avery streets, to accommodate the survivors of Freemasons killed during the Civil War. About 100 years ago, it purchased 120 acres at its current location on Frankfort Avenue where St. Matthews and Crescent Hill intersect.
The spacious grounds are filled with residences and care centers, and some of the older facilities reflect the way care centers used to be designed and constructed – for institutional efficiency. But, as Hess said, the culture is changing and the residents’ emotional needs and physical comforts now come first.