AgeCare Investments: Dr. Hasmukh Patel, CEO

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In 1998, Dr. Hasmukh Patel and Dr. Kabir Jivraj brought the “aging in place” concept to southern Alberta, Canada. It was an innovative approach to senior living facilities at the time, but the idea is a timely one and gaining in popularity. Statistically, it is predicted that in 25 years, a quarter of Canadians will be over the age of 65. “Demographics indicate seniors care is a growing sector,” says Patel, CEO of AgeCare Ltd. “Our population is getting older and living longer.”

Patel and Jivraj started with an 86-suite assisted living and long-term care facility in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Within a year they had applied the same model to 52-suite Orchard Manor in Brooks, Alberta. In the following three years they developed a 112-suite facility in Lethbridge, Alberta and acquired a 240-bed multi-level care facility in British Columbia. In a second acquisition, they took on two long-term care facilities totaling 350 beds, as well as a 50-suite assisted living facility.

AgeCare currently operates a total seven facilities with approximately 1,000 staff members. Most locations are in southern Alberta, with one in British Columbia and one in Ontario. Two new developments are in progress. An all-new 84-bed facility should be completed by July of 2009 and construction will begin on a 100-bed facility this summer. It will be AgeCare’s first green certified project. Patel says he expects AgeCare growth for the foreseeable future to be in from- new developments rather than further acquisitions.

Bringing Seniors Home

The “aging in place” model assures seniors that their needs will be met, even as their needs for care and assistance grows as they age. Aging in Place facilities accommodates the full spectrum of senior living, from independent living to assisted living to long-term healthcare and support services.

AgeCare facilities are designed and built with the goal of supporting seniors in a residential setting. Inside and outside, they strive to provide a home-like atmosphere for their residents rather than an institutional setting. “Most of our facilities are two or three level, wood frame construction,” says Patel. “They are very residential looking facilities. That’s the key when we design our sites.”Private suites are complemented by community amenities such as dining areas, lounges, exercise room, hair salon and libraries.

“The next generation of seniors expectations are changing,” says Patel. “They are expecting a better choice of accommodations, amenities and services, more say and involvement in their care plans.” People arrive at AgeCare with the expectation that they will live there for many years. They want to maintain their independence for as long as possible, but want to know that as needs develop, there will be options available to them and that don’t necessarily require a complete change of venue.

A Foundation of Quality Staff

“We are a service industry and caring staff is our single biggest asset,” says Patel. “We truly value our staff and make sure AgeCare is a positive place to come to work.”

All staff members go through a 2 to 3-week orientation period. Programs focus on teaching staff members what each level of care entails in terms of providing services to the clients. The goal is to make new employees aware that this is seniors care service they are entering and that care needs to be provided with compassion.

Turnover rates at AgeCare are lower than average for the industry, but recruiting healthcare staff has been a challenge over the last few years. The organization has, at times, looked overseas to staff their facilities. An initiative in the Philippines proved successful, but Patel would like to focus more on local resources for staff and the group has found success in partnering with area colleges to train new staff. Patel foresees a greater emphasis on this type of recruiting in the future.

Meeting the Future’s Expectations

Patel says considerations for senior housing and care have changed dramatically in the last couple of decades. Even what was being offered five to ten years ago is no longer acceptable to the new generation. Private suites are becoming the norm, for instance, rather than shared rooms, and the coming generation of seniors expects to remain involved in their healthcare planning and decisions to a much greater extent than previous generations.

Senior housing today must take into consideration that seniors will remain active and involved in their communities for greater lengths of time. They will expect to remain physically and socially more active and a greater accommodation of spiritual and cultural diversity must be met. They will come to AgeCare with the expectation of feeling as if they have arrived home, rather than feeling as if they’ve been shipped off or separated from their homes and families, the ties that bind them.

“Our facilities are long term for our clients,” says Patel. “When they come to us they are here for many years. This is their home, and we really need to treat our clients with respect and dignity. That’s the culture we try to drive and to instill in our staff. It’s all about trying to create a family environment.”

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