Nursing home care adapts to change

Milaca Elim Home Administrator Laura Broberg holds a menu at the facility’s dining room. The restaruant-style dining is just one of the ways nursing home changes are trending toward individualized care and away from a one-size-fits-all approach.

Milaca Elim Home Administrator Laura Broberg holds a menu at the facility’s dining room. The restaruant-style dining is just one of the ways nursing home changes are trending toward individualized care and away from a one-size-fits-all approach.

Care at the Milaca Elim Home and many nursing facilities across the state is moving in a new direction. Some of those alterations are in response to changes in demographics and demand. Others are the result of the differences in expectations residents have for their care.

Administrator Laura Broberg, who has worked at the Milaca location since 1986, has witnessed many changes throughout the decades.

“When I first started here, we had a file box full of waiting lists,” Broberg said. “It wouldn’t be uncommon for a stay to be five to 10 years.”

These days, the waiting list is extremely short to nonexistent. The majority of Milaca Elim Home residents stay for 10 to 21 days. Broberg said the home admits about 110 residents a year and has just as many discharges.

“It’s more of a transitional care,” she said. “It was always: Nursing homes were the place to come to die. And that’s not the case any more.”

The change in average stays at traditional nursing homes, such as the Milaca facility, can be at least partially attributed to the substantial increase in options available to seniors today. Assisted living centers, adult day care programs and an increase in the willingness of family members to care for their elderly parents or grandparents have reduced the need for long-term nursing home care.

They’re able to choose from the whole gamut,” Broberg said. “There’s many more options for seniors.”

Due to changes in residents’ expectations, the Elim Home is facing unique challenges that weren’t an issue 50 years ago.

“Our facility was built in 1964. We’re an aging building,” Broberg said.

Many residents today want Internet access so they can stay connected to family, friends and the outside world. Adding Wi-Fi Internet access points is a challenge in a building that never envisioned wireless infrastructure.

“People are expecting different things,” she said. “In the ’60s, what was considered adequate is no longer adequate.”

Other changes run deeper than cosmetic transformations due to technological advances. One of those is currently under construction at the Milaca Elim Home.

“We are disbanding our memory care unit and we are replacing that with a short-term rehab unit,” Broberg said.

This major change is the result of fewer demands for Alzheimer’s care. The past two years, the Milaca location has observed a significant decline in the number of patients needing memory care treatment. Meanwhile, the number of residents ages 65-75 who need short term care, following a surgery or other major medical treatment and need therapy and rehabilitation treatment, has increased.

The ability for nursing homes to adapt to so many changes so quickly is perhaps the reason why Minnesota does so well in elderly care compared to most other states. Broberg attributes Minnesota’s high rank in nursing home care to the staff and communities in which the facilities reside.

“I think we have a great workforce here. I don’t know if it comes from the family farms, but they know how to work. They value the elderly,” she said. “Being in a small town, where everyone has some kind of connection, there’s accountability. And that’s why I think the Princeton and Milaca Elim Homes have such great reputations.”

Broberg said the future of nursing home care poses many questions, especially in light of the baby boomer generation preparing for retirement and elderly care. What’s in store for them?

“That’s the million dollar question,” Broberg said.

She, like many other experts in the field, believes treatment and packages will continue to move toward individualized care. One way the Milaca location has already done so is by offering a restaurant-style dining facility in which residents can order meals from a variety of menu options any time of the day.

Rather than serving its residents the same meal and the same time every day, people have options. Broberg said nursing homes will continue moving away from that one-size-fits-all approach.

“That’s very different from what the traditional nursing home used to be,” she said.

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