Roundtable Sponsored by

In-depth assessments, improved dining and dietary options, and data tracking are just some of the components of creating effective wellness programs for residents in assisted living, according to executives who gathered in Las Vegas for another in a Provider Executive Roundtable series. The event, sponsored by MatrixCare, took place during the National Center for Assisted Living’s Spring Conference in March, where executive and management types from nearly a dozen provider companies exchanged information about what makes their programs successful and how to implement person-centered programs in an effective and efficient manner.

“You have to honor what the [residents] want. First, you need to figure out why someone wants one thing but not another, and once you take the time to understand the resident, you will be able to give them what they want,” says Michelle DeClemente-Hughes, vice president of operations for Emeritus Senior Living.

“I realized that it’s about the diversity of what we offer. You have to have enough going on that you meet needs of residents every day.”

The participants also touched on the seven dimensions of wellness (social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual, and physical), while some noted their participation in partnership programs such as Silver Sneakers and A Matter of Balance (created at Boston University), which are designed to help residents stay fit longer.

In addition to covering physical activity, many providers offer brain health and brain-challenging programs, with others focusing on dietary initiatives by offering healthier options, including vegetarian and gluten-free meals, as well as organics foods. Denise German, vice president of operations for Skilled Healthcare Group, noted that some of her buildings are conducting a pilot program on diabetes and obesity. “Believe it or not, as a result of our restaurant-style dining options, we’re now seeing more weight problems,” she said. “So we’re offering more nutrition programs.”

Chelsea Senior Living President and Chief Executive Officer Roger Bernier said his company is focusing on dietary as well. “People definitely want more healthy options,” he said. “Our residents are savvier. This year was the first time someone asked if our salmon was farm-raised or wild.”

Underscoring the importance of dietary options, Pat Giorgio, president of Evergreen Estates, noted that her company is making the switch to fewer processed foods and more homemade meals.

For Midwest Health Management, which has communities in Kansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma, the focus is dementia care, especially with regard to offering residents “normalized activities” related to the things residents used to do, said Regional Manager Carrie Stone.

Also discussed was the importance of assessments. Several participants noted that they had revamped and improved their assessment process in order to obtain better data and to get a better handle on the “whole person.” Chris Mason, president and chief executive officer of Senior Housing Investments and co-moderator of the roundtable, noted that his assessments now take about an hour and a half to conduct.“They’re longer,” he says, “but we make it more engaging so that we get more information from them.”