By Theresa Pichelmeyer, Ed.D., RN

President & CEO, Valley VNA Senior Care

For those of us who have found our calling in caring for older adults, we often describe our work with words like compassion, expertise, and dignity. These are powerful words and guiding principles for my vocation and style of leadership. I expect our team members to internalize these values and integrate them into every interaction with residents, clients, and one another.

In recent months, I have also had the distinctive opportunity to participate in the design of forthcoming new and remodeled living spaces at Valley VNA. Our group has learned about tangible ways to literally build compassion, expertise, and dignity into our plans. Expert architects   and designers help senior communities enhance their residents’ lives while simultaneously helping caregivers do their jobs more comfortably and families visit more joyfully. Here are a couple of examples of designing for dignity—and delight:

  • Create assisted-living residents’ rooms to include small private living/visiting spaces adjacent to their customary sleeping space. Everyone likes social interaction, but we all like our downtime, too, and these cozy private places allow for small family visits, a card game, or a nightly game show without having to be in a larger semi-private community room.
  • Design new bathrooms with sliding doors, much like old-fashioned barn doors, to eliminate big swinging doors that get in the way when entering a room. This is such an improvement for everyone, including staff and people who maneuver with wheelchairs or walkers. It’s a simple and inspired upgrade that makes life easier and looks nice, too.
  • Invest in residential-style kitchens that serve a smaller number of residents than a large dining room. These small kitchens might have a wheel-up breakfast bar with the feel of a modern deli where residents can watch some of the activity around their food prep in a more home-like setting. Mealtime routines are a comforting rhythm to our days and engender warm conversations between residents, families, and staff.

When a senior living community invests in more natural light, modern finishes, and even on-trend painted wood trim, they are helping to eliminate barriers between “inside” and “outside.” The step across the threshold is to visit and work and volunteer in a space that is designed for the dignity and delight of all people. And that is our highest calling.

Learn more about the forthcoming new and remodeled living spaces and the Caring for Generations campaign to support the work.