Pennsylvania Senior Care Pioneer Leads through Collaboration

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Paul-Winkler-thumbPaul W. Winkler, chief executive officer of Presbyterian SeniorCare, first joined the organization in 1987, when his predecessor, Charles W. Pruitt, was leading the Board of Directors into areas previously untouched by senior care.

At the time, Presbyterian SeniorCare already had a reputation for being a pioneer in senior living and was breaking new ground with Woodside Place, a dementia-care facility, the prototype of which was then nonexistent in the United States.

Recognized by the American Institutes of Architects in 2007 as one of 10 facilities that have made a difference in the field of aging, Woodside Place has been called “a paradigm-shifting way of looking at serving people who have special needs in a way that takes the caregiver into their world rather than trying to pull them into our world and make them adapt to our environment, system, and regimentation,” Winkler said.

Woodside Place is only one example of the ways in which the Presbyterian SeniorCare leadership has consistently held themselves to the highest standards of care, accomplishing big undertakings by adhering to one of the tenets of the organization’s values: collaboration.

“Innovation and collaboration really go hand in hand when you bring people with widely different perspectives together–out of the world of architecture and academia, the hospital world and long-term care and senior living–and really look at things differently,” Winkler said.

Presbyterian SeniorCare has 56 senior-living and care communities located across 10 counties in one of the oldest regions in the country: western Pennsylvania. As a result, the organization feels a responsibility and an obligation to set an example for how quality senior care should be delivered within the United States.

Integrating services for the benefit of its partners

As Presbyterian SeniorCare looks ahead to 2014, its goal is to become the foremost integrated post-acute/senior-living organization in western Pennsylvania.

Accomplishing this goal involves being aware of the most pressing needs confronting its hospital partners and physicians, such as readmission rates. For several years, Presbyterian SeniorCare has worked with UPMC and other hospital partners to assist in reducing these rates, and it was the first post-acute provider to join western Pennsylvania’s original and largest health information exchange, ClinicalConnect.

In order to serve the community with broader specialty geriatric medical services, Presbyterian SeniorCare is currently working with UPMC St. Margaret in offering a geriatric assessment center on the Oakmont campus. Through a partnership with UPMC and the Jewish Association on Aging, it also sponsors a PACE program called Community Life.

A decade ago, it introduced an innovative alternative to long-term care insurance that doesn’t just pay for care but also finds and manages it for its members. Longwood at Home is a Continuing Care at Home program licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance as a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community).

Similar to Community Life, the goal of the program is to keep seniors living at home for as long as possible. As the largest of its kind in the country, Longwood at Home has been very successful to the point that Presbyterian SeniorCare has freely shared information with other communities seeking to launch similar programs.

Finally, Winker said, a key component of Presbyterian SeniorCare’s 2014 strategic plan is building out dementia-care services across its continuum, with a particular emphasis on Woodside Place and The Woodside Model.

He said The Woodside Model has been replicated in nursing homes and personal-care/assisted-living facilities across the country, but Presbyterian SeniorCare would like to expand these services farther into the community, increasing access to dementia-care services not just for patients, but also for caregivers and physicians.

“That’s something we see as a huge need and we’re now looking at how we do that in a way that can also be a platform or framework to reach people who today are really underserved, highly stressed, and at risk,” he said. “Many times the caregivers’ own health is really at risk because of the caregiver burden.”

Creating a rewarding experience for residents and their families

Beyond the expansion of services, Winkler is looking to reinvent the network Presbyterian SeniorCare has built. His team’s desire is to create positive and fulfilling experiences for people.

This begins with upgrading its nursing and personal-care facilities to meet the demands of new care models. According to Winkler, senior care is now “more person-centered or resident-centered, looking at everything through the lens of the resident or family member and how we can provide more choice and enhance quality of life.”

In other words, Presbyterian SeniorCare’s facilities are moving from “hallways to households.”

Before renovating a facility, its facilities team isn’t so interested in where the command and control stations will be, but in creating a comfortable atmosphere that brings the scale down to a more humane level and decentralizes dedicated staff assignments.

Furthermore, the organization is making a point to distinguish short-stay rehab residents from long-stay nursing-care residents, with two goals in mind: creating a hospitality environment for short-stay residents focused on a speedy recovery and return to home and providing person-centered care and programming in a home-like setting for long-stay residents focused on quality of life.

Thanks to a grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Presbyterian SeniorCare is also converting an entire floor into three specialized dementia-care households at its Oakmont nursing-care community.

Above all, Winkler’s goal is to continue cultivating the spirit of innovation and collaboration that has been key to the success of Presbyterian SeniorCare since it was founded 85 years ago. He proudly notes the ongoing collaboration with other non-profit senior-living organizations across southwestern Pennsylvania as a member of the Faith-Based Network Alliance.

“I think this idea of innovation and collaboration together really became embedded in the organization, and it continues,” he said. “Our leadership team thinks that way, acts that way, and has been very stable and cohesive. We have been very blessed that most of our members of our leadership teams have been here 20-plus years, which is pretty unusual. That enables you to do bigger things than when you have a lot of turnover at the top.”

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