Montevideo’s Luther Haven facility is anticipating some changes in the near future to update aspects of the building and make it more modern for its residents, as well as its staff.

According to Justin Hughes, Luther Haven Administrator, the facility will be undergoing some remodeling soon.

“Our main objective that we’re doing here is renovation and addition to the facility,” said Hughes. “It dates back to the original part that we’re sitting in today, built in 1964. Then the addition over here was built in 1974, so with the age of a building that’s been used constantly since the 60s, we have rooms that were built that weren’t built for today’s current needs or even future use.”

According to Hughes, the project is aimed to make the facility look less “institutionalized.”

“We really want to improve what we have and make it better for our residents and their families. When you walk in it feels like an institution, with the long white hallways and low ceilings. That’s just how it was built, so we’re really trying to move towards something more home-like and inviting to make our residents feel like they want to be here, as well as give our front line staff the resources and space they need for us to continue providing high-quality care,” said Hughes.

Another issue for the residents as well as staff is the travel distance to some of the areas in the building.

“We have such a long travel distance for our employees to have to bring our residents, such as meals, activities, even doctor appointments. It’s a long distance to the hospital, so we’re trying to improve that, and make it so our residents want to go to activities. We’re really trying to promote that and promote more social aspects going on around here,” said Hughes.

The theme of the project is modeled around having a “town center” located in the building for the residents to go to for visitation, activities, food, and more.

“We want it to be like it is for anyone that’s living at home and they want to ‘go to town,’ where we have church, or spiritual care, or a movie, the beauty shop, admin offices, and we’re looking at adding a bistro area for our residents,” said Hughes. “But it would also be open to our employees, as well as visitors, and the community. The idea is that this is all in one area, so it’s like leaving your home, which is their room, then you’re going to town, or you’re going downtown, where everything is located. We’re really trying to pull that community feel into our project.”

The renovation is aimed at improving the lives of the residents, in addition to improving efficiency within the building.

“We also want to improve staff efficiency, because the travel would be much less than it is currently, and they would have more time to spend at the bedside with the residents rather than traveling from place to place,” said Cindy Stinson, Director of Nursing at Luther Haven.

According to Hughes, when the project was conceived, the planning committee came up with goals that they wanted to see come out of it, including resident satisfaction, staff efficiency, staff satisfaction, improving family and visitor experience, and shorten the travel distance within the facility.

“We are also looking to improve resident outcomes and improve safety, and also have additional amenities as well as improve upon what we have today. We established those goals early in the first meetings, then took a look at what things might look like and go from there based around those goals. We want to make sure we’re doing everything to hit those goals,” said Hughes.

If everything goes according to plan, the project is expected to be finished by the fall of 2020 or spring of 2021.

“The concept of the town center is to set up communities that can ‘meet and greet’ in the town center,” said Beth Hampton, Luther Haven’s Activities Director. “We’ll still do group things in those areas, and there’s a dining area and tables, and a kitchen in each of those so the dietary aspect is going to change and come and serve right out of the kitchen so it’s like you’re coming right out of your room to the dining room rather than going a further distance, such as where our dining rooms are now.”

The rooms will be bigger, more spacious and will be individual rooms according to the current design. The plans include sitting or congregation areas where people would be able to go out to sit and socialize, and would be designed like living rooms at the end of each hall where people can go out with their families and friends or meet and do activities, things that they can do outside of their rooms.

The plans also include a chapel that would be able to be a multipurpose area.

“We won’t have to walk through the chapel to go to our meals,” said Stinson. “The residents currently walk through the chapel to go eat, and with the renovation the meals will be served in each ‘neighborhood’; they’ll call each end to eat, and they’ll go to the ‘town center’ for the things you would normally go out and do when you live at home. Those dining rooms in each neighborhood will be much smaller and cozier, instead of a big dining room with 20 tables full of people, so it should be more peaceful, quiet and home-like when they sit to have their meals.”

The tables will be more broken up as well, with five tables in a smaller area rather than 16 tables in one big room. “We want to make it more homey, like you’re going to your dining room over there. That’s the goal,” said Hampton.

Hughes added, “Another thing each neighborhood will have is a kitchen that we are hoping will actually be making meals, or pre-making them in the main kitchen and preparing them in the smaller kitchens so the smell is going throughout the neighborhoods just like it would be at home where you can smell cookies baking, or making pancakes and french toast or sausage. Whatever it might be - you get that smell and really make it feel more home-like.”

According to Stinson, a lot of equipment has been developed since 1964 to help with the residents and help staff function more effectively.

“They’re not lifting people like they did back in 1964, so the larger rooms will allow them to use this equipment and have more room to move around instead of jogging, moving, and trying,” said Stinson. “We’re also hoping that every room has a shower, so you can take a shower when you get up in the morning like you would do at home, or you can take a shower before bed and not have to travel to the tub room once or twice a week.”

The facility is also looking at getting nurse servers installed, to cut down on travel time, maximize efficiency and make sure residents have everything they need right in their room.

“We’ll have nurse servers in the room, so instead of going in and stocking the back counter and going to the utility rooms, there will be a clean, a med, and a soiled area,” explained Stinson. “You can access it from the hallways, so you can stock the room quietly without going inside and disturbing anyone. That will change a lot with how the day flows.”

The nurse server is a cabinet that has doors located on the outside in the hallway, as well as inside the room, with a designated shelf area, and a locked med area.

“You can put the laundry in there and it can be accessed from the outside room for a laundry run instead of going to 20 rooms a day,” said Hampton.

Another improvement Hughes is excited about is an improved entry area, and canopy area for picking up and dropping off residents.

“When you look at the building it’s hard to distinguish where the main entrance is, so it is access and way-finding for some visitors and family members. We’re also hoping to have a drive-under canopy that will allow residents to be covered and protected from rain or snow when they are getting picked up or dropped off.”

There isn’t a set timeline for the start and finish of the project, but it is anticipated to take 18 to 24 months if things go according to plan.

“The renovation will be done in phases because of course, we are a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week care center, so it will be a lot of taking something down and putting something up,” said Hampton.

Residents will not have to worry about being located elsewhere during the renovation, as they will be moved into another room within the facility until their part of the renovation has been completed.

“We’ll be opening up offices that used to be resident rooms, or storage rooms that used to be resident rooms and make sure we have a place for everybody, which we are confident about, we’re just working out how we will be going about it,” said Hughes.

The first phase of the project will be creating a new kitchen, and adding new infrastructure for the heating and cooling within the building.

“With the new system, each resident will be able to have climate control in their room, so it’s zoned off and they’ll be able to heat it if they want it warmer, and if they want it cooler in the summer they can adjust that, where today they do not have that option,” said Hughes.

They are also anticipating more storage space for resident belongings and bathrooms in each of the rooms.

“We would like to give the residents more autonomy for what they have and really make it the best that we can,” said Hughes.

A moratorium for Luther Haven was submitted to the Department of Health last week in an effort to see what the cost threshold of renovation is. Notification of approval will not be until April, which is the earliest the project would be able to start. Hughes is hoping that they will be able to begin fundraising in early 2020 to help with the extra costs associated with the renovation.

“There’s a threshold that they have with how much cost we can do on the nursing home side before we would have to go get approval; we know things will probably be over that threshold so we’re hoping fundraising can help us fill in the gaps to make this project a reality,” said Hughes.