Any observer of the Neighborhoods at St. Elizabeth’s can see that it does not operate like a hospital or traditional nursing home. In its place is a person-centered approach with an environment that creates a home. In the words of Administrator Christine Podles: “Instead of fitting elders into our schedule of convenience and efficiency, our staff accommodates the elder’s natural rhythm of doing things.” After all, no one wants to live in a hospital.”
Christine says that this new prototype helps combat the three plagues of aging: helplessness, loneliness and boredom. “Elders now have more control of their lives, determining when, what and with whom they want to eat as well as when they wish to sleep, socialize and for how long,” she says. To support this independence, numerous physical changes have been made.”
Each wing is a Neighborhood with a name: Abram’s Avenue, Esther’s Court, Joseph’s Way, Sarah’s Circle and Noah’s Place for memory care residents. When entering each floor, visitors see a spacious living room that replaces the nursing station. This is residents’ home. The two Neighborhood living rooms on each floor are inviting places to gather with amenities that include an electric fireplace, a wall-mounted flat screen television and entertainment center. No two areas are the same, with colors and furnishings selected by the elders to create individualized spaces.
The nurse’s station that holds electronic files is a nook in the adjoining hallway. The artificial barriers between patients and staff have been removed to allow personal interaction. Mail is delivered to mailboxes that are mounted outside each room, allowing elders to engage in a routine activity. Meals are served in a new dining room five times a day from a food station that offers assorted entrées. Three chefs have replaced the former food service, eliciting rave reviews from the elders. Snacks and drinks are accessible 24 hours a day in a side area of the dining hall.
Beyond each living room is a covered porch. Additional draws to the outdoors are a memory garden (for Noah’s Place elders) that’s in bloom 10 months out of the year, a therapy garden, and an expansive pavilion where gatherings and parties are held for elders and their families. In the memory garden, elders can safely wander and their families can plant flowers. The therapy garden has different terrains where elders can practice walking or navigating their wheelchairs. “Here elders can set goals of moving from a bench or flower bed with the ability to see how far they have come,” says Christine.
“We set out to create an environment that was warm, inviting, and most of all, a place where our elders would thrive. Judging from our observations and from the feedback that we’ve been given, we’ve been successful,” says Christine.
“I’m most impressed with the great love and devotion of the staff towards the residents of the St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. There’s certainly a spirit of warmth that purveys this very homelike setting. One would feel most confident in having a loved one reside here.”
—Most Reverend Denis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore on a recent tour of the Neighborhoods.
“We had a very warm feeling from day one and we just knew this was the right place for Mom. Everyone who works here is very kind and they take such good care of her. Mom is so joyful all the time and she calls it home, which means the world to us.”
—Colette Wolf says of her mother Mary K. who is a resident of Noah’s Place at St. Elizabeth