Rural nursing home gets international award for person-centred care

Rural nursing home gets international award for person-centred care

A nursing home in the small rural community of Stanley is getting international recognition for its approach to senior care.

The Nashwaak Villa has been awarded a gold certification by the nursing home organization Planetree International, a non-profit group that sets guidelines for care in nursing homes.

Planetree was founded in the 1980s in San Francisco by Angelica Thieriot, after an unpleasant experience in a top U.S. hospital.

She decided to try to make health care more humane and individualized.

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The group works with more 700 health-care organizations worldwide, but only 93 have a gold certification, and only five of these are in Canada.

The Villa, about 49 kilometres north of Fredericton, is focused on what staff call person-centred care in an effort to make the nursing home feel less like an institution.

Jenna Whitlock, the villa's Planetree co-ordinator, said the certification is "very exciting" for staff.

"We're very proud of all of the work that we've done," said Whitlock.

"Culture change is hard … in any organization and especially in a small rural nursing home such as this. It's really impressive all of the things that we've been able to do here for our residents."

Each year the staff organize a "retreat" at the nursing home, where they take workshops to help deliver better care. That can be anything from using the right language when talking to patients. to when to spend more time with a resident.

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After every "retreat," staff members write a pledge that is posted on a wall at the home, said executive director Daphne Noonan.

"It's kind of our Wall of Fame and it signifies … to everybody who walks into our organization … what the culture is here and [that] we are very passionate about person-centred care," said Noonan.

The Nashwaak Villa is celebrating its 40th year of operation this fall.

While the Villa has only been in its new building since 2013, it has had a presence in the community since 1979.

The new building has larger windows, a focus on private rooms, two fenced-in green spaces for residents and even a playground for any children who are visiting.

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Delores Waye is a licensed practical nurse and has worked at the Villa for 30 years.

She said one big change over that time is the way meals are handled. 

For example, all residents used to have to come for breakfast at the same time. Now, breakfast is held between 7:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., and residents can arrive anytime they like.

"We were waking them in the middle of the night to get them dressed in order for them to be up for breakfast then putting them all back to bed, getting them back up for lunch," said Waye. 

"So all day, you were going up and down and up and down. Now that we have a more relaxed atmosphere, they can stay in bed as long as they want."

Another change Waye has seen is how staff interact with patients with dementia.

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"You were always supposed to bring the resident to our reality," said Waye. 

"It was heartbreaking because you would have someone who experienced a great loss and would be looking for their husband, for example, and, you know, you'd say 'No, I'm sorry, you know, he passed away.' And every day they would be crying. … Now it's just so much better."

Greta Spilman grew up in the Stanley area and moved into the villa four years ago.

She called the staff her "guardian angels" and said she enjoys her new home.

"Beautiful painted walls, the floor shining so brightly and spectacularly large window scenery, beautiful window scenery," said Spilman.

"What more could we ask?"

Udo Stehlmann shopped around before he settled on Nashwaak Villa.

The engineer came to Canada from Germany when he was 26. He still loves to work with stained glass and does it in a makeshift workshop at the Villa.  

Terry Koch, a longtime friend of Stehlmann, said he helped him look for a place to live.

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 "Udo and I started looking for a home in 2017 and in the summer, we visited the villa here," said Koch. 

"We visited several [nursing homes] and as soon as we got here we appreciated that it was different."

Waye said the Villa's adoption of person-centred care has led to happier residents, happier staff, and fewer aggressive incidents between the two.

"They're getting better sleep," she said.

"They're not as aggressive as they used to be. To me it's amazing. It really is. … This is the type of nursing I've always wanted to do but have never been able to do it."