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Mark Berger on the Business of Nursing Homes Today

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Thousands of baby boomers are hitting the big 65 each and every day. But according to the Assisted Living Federation of America, few believe they can rely on family for long-term care and more and more Americans support the idea of the government creating support systems for them. How can the assisted living industry prepare and what can nursing home owners do to be ready?

Nursing homes today often face a severe shortage of professional help, which commonly lead to the aggravating, disturbing and sad headlines we commonly see in the news. Mark Berger, Chicago nursing home professional, shares his thoughts with us today on the challenges of today's assisted living facilities.

1. With the growing popularity of all natural products and treatments, do you foresee being able to bring this kind of care into nursing homes?

The truth is natural products and treatments have already entered the industry. Our therapists and medical staff are treating patients for pain management and other symptoms with energy medicine, manipulative and body based methods, as well as biologically based practices.

2. A common denominator of nursing home and assisted living problems seem to stem from the staff always changing. If specialists come into the picture more often, how could staff turnover rates be reduced?

In my opinion, Having physicians or therapists utilizing these practices will not resolve the issue of staff turnover in our industry. Resources in the medical field, especially for nurses are limited as it is. However, as with any other industry, companies need to challenge themselves to strive to become the employer of choice within their markets. At Villa Healthcare, Organizational Health is a priority and a significant amount of time is invested into our employees. We believe that individuals which are given opportunities to achieve greatness have a better sense of purpose, and ultimately will be the type of leaders and role models our industry desperately needs. The challenge is how to create those opportunities for people, and at Villa we think about those issues every day.

3. Are inspections effective enough? What are the loopholes or downfalls that they may have problems with?

Health inspections definitely play an important role when it comes to accountability for health care organizations. With that said every system has its challenges and our inspection/survey process is not without them. I think they have made significant strides with the approach and process of the inspections, and I'm sure it will continue to improve. In my opinion, annual inspection results aren't as much of a barometer into the quality of the facility as complaint surveys results would be. In most cases, annual inspections by its nature will have deficiencies.

Depending on the team of surveyors, they may have more deficiencies, or less than, the average for that state. However a facility that doesn't receive complaints or doesn't have many findings from a complaint survey, it speaks to the credibility of their patients feeling satisfied overall. At Villa we've taken the initiative to "self inspect" thru a comprehensive customer satisfaction survey process at various times throughout a patients stay. This feedback allows us to identify any issues immediately before they become a real problem which may lead to dissatisfaction. It gives our staff real credibility with the patients and families when they recognize a staff that strives for perfection and are enthusiastic about correcting the issue when we're not so perfect.

4. What is the biggest problem with nursing homes today, in your opinion? And how do you see being able to overcome that problem?

One of the biggest challenges for our industry is being able to adapt to the types of patients we are seeing, and being able to care for them appropriately. No longer are the days, where people come to a nursing home to live out the rest of their life because its easier instead of being home. Today patients are coming out of the hospital sicker, with a variety of comorbidities, medically complex, and multiple diagnosis. At Villa we understand the concept that people want to heal as quickly as possible in the most aggressive manner that they can handle, so they can get back to their every day life. For our transitional care model we partner with physicians in their areas of expertise.

We have physicians and NP's rounding at our facilities more often. We have teams of physical, occupational, speech, and wound care therapists who are trained in many specialty areas, and we invest in medical technology to ensure our patients get back to their optimal level of function in the quickest time possible. We also realize that our patients today demand a certain level of comfort and ambience, so we invest significant capital into the centers we acquire to provide amenities and surroundings that one can find in a hotel. We also boast a full time concierge team in our centers dedicated to ensuring our patients stay is as comfortable as possible. Whether its easing them through the admission process, connecting them with a family member, running out to get them a coffee or sandwich from the deli, OR setting them up with a laptop and wifi service, our teams are focused on the patients satisfaction.

5. Is there anything else you'd like to share or address?

Our guiding principles are, as we believe all assisted living facilities should be, Exceptional Care, Unexpected Luxury, and Passionate Service. Creating destinations of clinical sophistication, with hotel like services and amenities, and most importantly cared for by a team of individuals that are extremely passionate about what they do. It is not enough for us to duplicate what is already being done but to create a model by which there is to learn from, and set the pace for the future of our industry.

Why should anyone listen to what Mr. Berger's opinion on the matter? Here are just a few reasons why:

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