When asked to share their top three wishes in a nursing home, most folks quickly reply that they hope to never find out. Given a chance to really think about it, perhaps most people would wish for preservation of dignity, a friendly community and a comfortable place that feels like home.
For Marie Guerrero, 76, those wishes have all come true. As a resident of Samaritan Bethany, Marie has moved into the brand new downtown location on Eighth Street near Broadway after living one year in Samaritan Bethany Heights’ old location on Assisi Drive Northwest.
“I love it here,” says Marie. “The people are so nice. I keep myself very occupied. You couldn’t ask for it any better.”
Volunteer Bob Mieras agrees with that sentiment. “Everyone I’ve talked with just loves the new building and they think the food is pretty good, too!”
Bob was introduced to Samaritan Bethany when his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and became a resident six years ago. As he spent time feeding his wife and visiting, he also began to help with various group activities. Though it’s been two years since she passed away, Bob still volunteers every day.
“I escort residents to the clinic for appointments, take them downstairs to church, play cards or Bingo, whatever I can do to make their lives happier. A lot of them are very good friends,” says Bob, a self-described “young 83 who feels like 40.”
The big move
All the residents from the Home on Eighth and 66 residents from The Heights were moved to the new six-story building on May 3.
“It was a big change, but we tried to make it fun for them by having special food and inviting their families to join us,” says Sue Knutson, mission leader and CEO. “We’ve tried to make this location more like home to our residents, with more private rooms, a place for their own belongings and easier access to bathrooms.”
Rather than a traditionally long hallway with many rooms on each side, Samaritan Bethany has a spacious, open floor plan. The ambiance is cozy and uplifting, with built-in curio cabinet memory boxes outside each room for residents to display their photos, collections and other treasures.
Along with private showers, residents enjoy added privacy with cabinets called nurse servers that open to both the hallway and the bathrooms. Towels, linens and medications are delivered into the cabinet from outside the room while residents can access them from inside their bathrooms. Each room has a versatile closet area and a built-in armoire with deep, easy-sliding drawers, shelves and space for a television. Rooms are also designed for future installation of ceiling lifts.
The new building has been divided into 10 “neighborhoods” whose names, like Northern Heights House and Quarry Hill House, are reminiscent of actual Rochester neighborhoods.
Each floor has two “households” with about 13 residents living in each. With 162 private rooms and 10 semi-private rooms, there are 182 total beds in the home. Each household has its own laundry, kitchen and gathering room. One boasts a baby grand piano, enjoyed by all the residents. For those who prefer a bath instead of a shower, there’s a spa with an air tub on each floor.
Making it a home
“Alvin E. Benike was our general contractor for the building, and they created a mock room for some of our residents to see before they began building the home so they could give input on things like window height,” says Sue. A group of them were able to give input on colors, furniture fabric and art. Their choices are reflected in the warm, earth-tone colors, floral prints and artwork from local artists. “The local art gives them a connection and serves as great conversation starters for guests,” says Sue.
Samaritan Bethany strives to use a social medical model of care. Residents in each household decide how they want their furniture arranged in common areas, when they want to eat meals and what kinds of activities they’d like to have. This promotes a sense of ownership and community among them.
“It’s called person-directed care,” Sue explains. “We’ve asked the residents, ‘What works best for you? What do you really want?’ At first, many felt like they didn’t deserve this. They said that this building was huge and so nice. We’ve all been surprised at how quiet it is, even downtown. And the views are so pretty. During fireworks this summer, all the big picture windows were full of residents peering out and enjoying the show.”
The social scene is vibrant and friendly, and it’s not uncommon for one household to invite another household over for shared activities. “Recently, the fourth floor hosted a happy hour,” laughs Sue.
People make the difference
Volunteers play a vital role at Samaritan Bethany. Along with sharing music by playing instruments and singing, playing Bingo, Pictionary and other games, volunteers have also taken residents to Dairy Queen, Kismet, Honkers games and the mall. Sometimes they escort them downstairs to a common area called the Pub where they can attend church services, watch Monday Night Football on a large screen television, visit the on-site store or enjoy a manicure.
Linnea Seiver has been working as a homemaker/Nursing Assistant Registered (NAR) at Samaritan Bethany since 1996. “They are like my family,” says Linnea, who is now a Versatile Worker, which means that she can do more than one thing, like cooking and nursing. “They care about me and ask about my son. I never have a problem getting up each morning and coming to work because I love my job and am very fulfilled!”
It all started for Linnea when she drove up to The Heights to see what was up there. She applied as a housekeeper and discovered that this was where she wanted to be. “I adored the residents from the start. They are living history.”
The new building has meant transformation for Linnea and other staff in the way that they care for residents. “It’s a more intimate, family-oriented setting,” says Linnea. “Besides cooking and cleaning for them, it’s okay to sit and talk and spend one-on-one time because there are just 13 in a household and I don’t feel so rushed to get to the next room down the hall. The other day, there were four ladies sitting around a table and we ended up having a sing-a-long. It was great!”
A quote on Samaritan Bethany’s website says it best: “Our residents do not live in our facility; we work in their home.” This attitude is reflected among residents, staff and volunteers. There’s something about Samaritan Bethany that just works.
Bob Mieras is quick to identify the secret ingredient. “It’s a very beautiful building, like a nice hotel, really. But, it takes a lot more than a building to make a nice home. Good people make the difference.”