Senior Life: ‘Nursing homes’ now focus on short-term rehab

July 24, 2009
By

GINNY MAZUR

Not so long ago “skilled nursing center” was a term that would evoke a sense of long-term care for the frailest elders and those with Alzheimer’s disease. Current demographics at Goddard House Skilled Nursing & Rehabilitation Center on S. Huntington Avenue highlight that a new era has come to what people once knew as “nursing homes.” Treating younger patients for short-term rehabilitation and complex medical conditions reflects the focus of more than the majority of admissions to Goddard House and similar residences in the community.

Recently retired 20-year state Rep. Shirley Owens-Hicks of Mattapan reflected on this trend from the vantage point of being both a patient and elder advocate at the end of her recent stay on the rehabilitation unit at Goddard. The long-time educator, activist and politician stressed the specific benefits of rehabilitation at a skilled nursing center.

“I want to go home and resume my life as soon as I can, but I want to be healthy and ready,” she said of the purpose of her stay. “As I look forward to my upcoming discharge, I recognize that Goddard House was just what I needed following my surgery and hospital stay. Here, I could relinquish my responsibilities, which I could not have done at home, and focus on recuperation and respite.”

Owens-Hicks went on to say, “It is challenging to age, and, though I understood this from my affiliation with Boston elder care agencies like Ethos and Central Boston Elder Services, it is quite different now, having experienced a center like Goddard House firsthand. Now I can attest to the high level of skill and dedication from the staff that went into my own care. It encourages me personally to see how skilled nursing centers function more today in the role of keeping older adults active, engaged and prepared to go home safely.”

Goddard House Executive Director Denise Riley Okun stressed that this is a trend that is expected to grow as the population ages. She encouraged baby boomers as well as older seniors to “get to know your community skilled nursing centers and discover how expert and ‘user friendly’ we are as professional care providers.”

She went on to say that many people in the community do not realize that a great number of people admitted to nursing homes are admitted for a short stay in order to receive rehabilitation services or treatment of complex medical issues that do not require hospital level of care.

“Goddard House has discharged 85 percent of the residents admitted [this year] back to their own homes after their need for skilled serv-ices was completed,” she said. Goddard House, with 160 years of history of caring for elders in Boston, continues to change with the times.

The writer is on the staff of Goddard House Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.