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3 Ways Old Senior Living Campuses Are Staying On Top

Not everything that glitters is gold. But in the age of new senior living construction and community repositioning, that adage may be getting lost in the mix.

While some industry professionals are banking on developing brand new communities, arguing that newer facilities are more desirable, those providers with decades-old properties are finding it hard to compete.

One provider, however, is finding the silver lining in its age, and is seeking innovative ways to turn its 44-year-old health center into the go-to destination for residents and patients.

Wyndemere, a Life Care Services continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Wheaton, Ill., says remaining competitive in today’s marketplace means more than just sparkling finishes.

In fact, the community has found three ways to differentiate its skilled care center from “the new and shiney,” even though it’s more than four decades old.

From hiring a full-time physician to fostering a collaborative relationship with an area hospital and developing unique programming, the health center is poised for success, despite being an older physical plant.

1. Add Full-Time Physician Staff

Traditionally, long-term care centers have hired physicians who also visit other area communities and come in a few times a month or upon the change in a resident’s condition.

However, Wynscape Health and Rehabilitation Center, Wyndemere’s skilled care center, employs Ralph Wang, a full-time physician from U.S. Physiatry, who works exclusively at the community. A nurse practitioner also works five days a week at the community and takes calls seven days a week.

The addition of the two health care professionals has improved Wynscape’s readmission rates significantly, and is serving as a trial model for Life Care Services, which owns and operates more than 115 senior living communities nationwide.

“Our readmission rate has gone down considerably with the onboarding of the physiatrist and the nurse practitioner,” says Aimee Musial, nursing home administrator at Wynscape. “When Dr. Wang started, we were as high as 22% certain months, and we have been as low as 6%. The 2014 average rate for readmissions [was] 12.6%.”

While U.S. Physiatry serves as a preferred vendor for Life Care Services’ communities nationwide, Wynscape is the first such community to employ its physicians full time, making it a trial model that will lay the foundation for the company in the coming years, says Marty Jensen, executive director of Wyndemere.

“The company is absolutely committed to the support of the on-site physician,” he says.

Additionally, physicians from the Cadence Health Physician Group at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Ill., visit the community three days a week, seeing patients at all three levels of care: independent, assisted and skilled nursing.

“We have a very high-performing hospital environment,” Jensen says.

2. Focus on Hospital Relationships

Wynscape has developed a collaborative relationship with the Central DuPage Hospital, a participant in the accountable care organization, Cadence Health ACO, LLC.

While the ACO has not officially rolled out its preferred provider agreements, Musial says Wynscape is committed to a high standard of quality in its care, services and clinical outcomes.

Among Wynscape’s clinical outcomes are its readmission rates, which the provider has worked to reduce with the help of its full-time physician and on-staff nurse practitioner.

However, the provider not only looks at the rate of return to hospital, but also the reason for return, assessing whether readmissions were avoidable or unavoidable.

In doing so, Wynscape’s clinical team has partnered with the clinical team at Central DuPage Hospital to evaluate root cause for those residents returning to the hospital within 30 days in an effort to collaborate to improve processes.

“The fact that hospitals are partnering with skilled nursing centers is core to the ACO environment and in the case of Wynscape and CDH, both providers are committed to the same end result — quality patient care and outcomes,” Musial says.

Jensen adds that Life Care Services as a management company emphasizes similar types of criteria that the hospitals are striving for.

“They’re really focusing on getting the physiatrists and other medical professionals within the health centers, looking at hospital readmission rates and enhancing communication between the health centers and hospitals for enhanced continuity of care,” he says.

3. Roll Out New Programming

When thinking of a skilled nursing center, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t programming.

But, coupled with Wynscape’s emphasis on clinical outcomes, its agenda of long-term care programs helps the old campus remain fresh — and competitive.

One program, in particular, takes an interesting approach at engaging residents.

Called “Sharing Moments,” the program encourages long-term care residents to dream up the perfect day, and then grants their wishes.

“People focus so much today on short-term rehab and how do you increase your rehab census,” Musial says. “We do that, too, but we thought: What can we do to really beef up the care and services we offer to our residents who have committed to us forever? That’s how Sharing Moments started.”

Last year, when the program first rolled out, the community granted six wishes with the help of staff who volunteered, and donations from residents, local businesses and professionals.

“There’s so much negative press about what happens within a long-term care facility,” Musial says. “Our goal is to really change that perception starting with our staff, residents and family members — to say that just because someone lives here doesn’t mean that they can’t still do outstanding things, and that they haven’t still contributed to the world. It isn’t just a place where seniors are warehoused.”

So despite being more than four decades old, Wynscape’s programming, relationships and staff members have turned the property into a competitive gem.

Written by Emily Study