The Suite Life for Seniors

The Suite Life for Seniors

Senior Living

Aug. 28, 2002

Rey Matthews, a three-time Congressional Golf champion and volunteer at the Kemper Open for 30 years, has found a new place to hang her golf clubs. “Oh, my God, I love it. I’m so spoiled,” she said.

Matthews has been in a private suite for about a month at Potomac’s HCR ManorCare Health Services Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Arden Courts Assisted Living on Potomac Tennis Lane. “They take wonderful care of you. Whatever you ask for, you get. I don’t want to go home.”

A new wing, “The Suites at Potomac,” opened last May at the facility complete with 10 rooms and a rehabilitation center and was designed to cater to an upscale clientele used to living in the well-appointed homes of the Washington area.

The overall cost of the renovation, including furnishings, was $1.2 million, with $800,000 of that going toward architectural and building fees. Clients currently living in the new wing pay $8,990 a month for private rooms, and $11,315 a month for a private suite.

THE NEW WING is an attempt to move away from an institutional ambiance to something more closely resembling an upscale Washington hotel. Ten new rooms are complete with 12-foot ceilings and five-foot windows.

“We spent days with designers in the newly renovated upscale hotels downtown, and we got a lot of ideas,” said building administrator Cherilyn Poulsen. “We worked with several designers to come up with finishes that are soothing — soft butter colors — anything in the yellow tones because yellow has been proven to have a rehabilitative effect. All the rooms have molding because our clients look at that level of detail. The window dressings are customized to maximize the light.” Patients are also welcome to bring their own artwork and furniture.

The new wing was added as the facility became full. The Potomac facility can accommodate 158 people at full capacity and usually serves somewhere in the high 140s. With the new 10-bed addition, there are now 39 private rooms to meet increasing requests for private rooms.

“[Before the addition of the new wing] it seemed like many case managers and discharge planners from Sibley and Suburban hospitals asked for rehabilitation private rooms and we weren’t meeting that need,” Poulsen said.

THE NEW ROOMS also exceed many American Disabilities Act (ADA) design standards. There is a five-foot turning radius in all the bathrooms so that people can turn around in a wheelchair without hitting anything. All the shower stalls are equipped with seats. Rails line the bathroom walls to assist patients.

Additionally, the new wing includes a rehabilitation center that features an exercise mat and a tub to train patients how to get in and out by themselves.

Seniors often meet each other in the rehabilitation room and make lunch dates together. A bridge group was even formed out of friendships forged in this room.

There is also a beauty salon that does full-service hair, facials, manicures, pedicures and waxes for suite residents.

All residents of the facility receive massages as part of their therapy.

“Massage therapy can improve the circulation and skin, reduce the need for medication, and reduce anxiety,” said Kitty Southworth, the center’s licensed massage therapist. “Touch is the very first sense that’s developed and it’s probably the last sense to go. I have a patient with Alzheimer’s and she recognized me when I touched her face.”

THE COMPANY BELIEVES the upscale community will be willing to pay more for a nicer rehabilitation environment. “When Manor Care was doing its original research, the expectations of seniors were examined. There is a segment of the community that will pay more for the luxury of a private room,” said Poulsen.

HCR ManorCare does accept Medicare. Medicare patients would pay $75 a day in addition to their Medicare coverage.

In addition to providing care for seniors, the facility also services younger patients who have had traumatic injuries or terminal illnesses. “You would not want to put a 20-something recovering from an auto accident in the same room with an 80-year-old dementia patient,” said Robin Coleman, clinical director of specialty units for HCR ManorCare.

HCR Manor Care employees are all carefully screened before they are hired. The screening includes a criminal background check.

“We are very careful to choose people who really love doing this,” said Coleman. Many of the people Coleman hired and trained in her role as director of staff development when the facility opened in 1987 are still employed at Manor Care.

“It takes a lot of patience [to work in a nursing home,]” said Southworth. “There’s no amount of money that could provide me with the same reward I get from helping these patients improve. It’s that one-on-one.”

How do the residents of the new facility feel about the luxurious service?

“I was very sick when I got here. I was within a hair’s breath of dying,” said Matthews. “If you could recycle a person, like they’ve done me, you’ve created a miracle.”