Moving Mountains at the Mt. St Vincent

What makes a skilled care institution a place where people want to live and where people want to work? What puts the home back into nursing home?

Almost 25 years ago when I was a grad student I did a single case study of the Mt. St Vincent, a long-time Seattle skilled care community in the midst of transformation. The “Mount” was among the first to identify and implement culture change; indeed they were literally one of the first pioneers.

Current administrator Charlene Boyd was working there at the time and many staff are also still there—an impressive achievement in an industry where the turn-over tends toward 50% a year rather than the average of 10% at the Mount.

The administrator in the early 1990s was Robert Ogden, who was generous with his time explaining the process to a student (me) who knew little about long-term care. He described his epiphany when one day he dragged his feet to work, pondering why they spent millions of dollars on an institution where few people wanted to work and even fewer wanted to live.

We will always need nursing homes, now more than ever. But they have changed in many ways. What was usually a long-term living situation can now be short-stay rehabilitation post-hospital after you get your amazing new hip (I love mine!).

What was once impersonal, institutional, rigid, regimented, and really not a lovely place to live or to visit can now be person-centered, homey, flexible, thoughtful and delightful—especially if it’s like the Mt. St. Vincent, a model of ‘culture change’.

More about this very soon!

Published by jeannettefranks

Jeannette Franks, PhD, is a passionate gerontologist and for over 20 years has taught ethics, grief and loss, and courses on geriatrics and gerontology for the University of Washington. Franks' most recent book is, To Move or To Stay Put: A Guide for Your Last Decades. Look for it now on the University Bookstore website It is also available at Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge. Franks previously published a definitive guide to independent and assisted living titled Washington Retirement Options, and often speaks on retirement options, disability issues, end-of-life issues and is an advocate for accessibility. She has a goal of making Bainbridge an elder-friendly community and is available to groups and families to discuss these issues. She served for nine years on the Kitsap County Advisory Council on Aging and Long-term Care. She also has the privilege of working in a small way for the past 15 years with the Suquamish tribal elders.

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