Aging in Community: How Living Well Group is changing elder care

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Aging in Community: How Living Well Group is changing elder care

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 11:45am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Paul Kervick and Dee DeLuca have known each other for more than three decades. More than one-third of that time has been spent changing society’s approach to elder care. The two entrepreneurs are altering how we as a nation, a state, and a community approach aging and health care as part of their Living Well Group, with campuses in Bristol, Burlington and Montpelier.

Dee DeLuca and Paul Kervick

“In 2004, I was attending a small gathering at a friend’s house and someone in the group mentioned that she was looking at a place in Bristol for her grandmother,” recalls DeLuca. “She said that they had looked at the ‘Bristol House’ and it was nice, but since it had been for sale for so long with no buyers in sight, the State was not going to relicense it as a Level III care home.

Everyone in the group looked at me. I said, ‘Oh no, no.’ I had just sold the last of my businesses and was in the process of simplifying my life and making room for more creative pursuits. Well, needless to say, I was on my way over to the Bristol House a few days later. As soon as I stepped through the door, I knew this would be my next endeavor. It felt so right.”

DeLuca gathered some investors together and enlisted the help of her old friend, Paul Kervick, to provide the nonprofit status and help with the vision for what this could mean not just for the thirteen elders living at Bristol House, but the entire aging population in Vermont, and someday, nationwide. It was as a collective action that the first residential care home in Vermont to use an integrative medical approach was born.

Within six months, many residents of Living Well in Bristol evidenced noticeable improvements. A woman who was thought to have severe dementia picked up the phone one day and had a lucid conversation with her family for the first time in years. Another woman, who mostly sat in her room alone, got up and played the piano. No one knew she had been a piano teacher. The house came alive with new energy and new health care protocols that treated the whole person and not just their disease.

Fast forward to 2017, and Living Well Group has three facilities in Vermont — Living Well Residence in Bristol, Ethan Allen Residence in Burlington, and Heaton Woods Residence in Montpelier — serving more than 100 elders; 50 percent of whom are Medicaid clients. Paul and Dee are just as involved as they were in 2004 and are more committed than ever to expanding their humanistic and cost-effective approach to health care and elder care.

“We are working to shift the thought that aging is an illness and instill in our health care system and in our field of residential care that aging is a normal part of life and holds much value and promise,” said Kervick. “No other business model encompasses the whole person like Living Well does. We approach wellness as the interconnectedness of body, mind, and spirit.”

Each of Living Well’s residences has a homey feel, and all residents are encouraged to engage in meaningful connections with their care providers and extended family, with each other, and with members of the broader community where they reside. Family input and engagement also offer opportunities to design personal health plans and activities. Exercise, strength training, and healthful diets are all part of daily life that honors individual needs and preferences. The healthful benefits of local, natural foods, holistic medication management, and abundant opportunities for physical and social activity complete the circle of wellness, connection, and engagement that define Living Well’s model of care.

“Aging in community is one approach on a long, continuum of elder care. Once someone can no longer live alone at home, we provide a home for them with engaging activities, locally sourced meals, a naturopathic on-staff doctor, and a bevy of social interactions, if they so choose. We have witnessed an increase in joy and health in our residents,” confirms Kervick.

Another cutting edge program implemented by Living Well is Dynamic Governance — an organizational model that goes beyond effective, efficient management. Dynamic Governance creates communication circles within the care giving facility and beyond. Individual residents, groups of residents, families, care providers, staff, and community members take part in ongoing, timely, and supportive dialogues. All concerned in residents’ wellbeing provide their unique perspectives and input to assure Living Well’s delivery of services includes the best current innovations in healthcare, unique wellness programs, and nutrition.

“I had been studying with John Buck, a leading expert in Dynamic Governance and Sociocratic principles, before we bought the Bristol House,” remembers DeLuca. “I was thinking I would use these methods in my next adventure. I never dreamed I would be using them as the guiding principles for a residential care home. But Dynamic Governance absolutely complements our approach to care and our organization’s structure.”

What sets Living Well apart is the depth and breadth their model of care offers its residents regardless of ability to pay. For example: Living Well has 45% lower cost for their homemade, nutritious meals compared to the national average; 50% of their residents are Medicaid clients, the second highest percentage in Vermont; there is a 1:1 staff to resident ratio that tends to each individual’s needs and preferences; more than 800 volunteer hours were donated last year for a wide array of activities; 100% of the residents have access to a Naturopathic Doctor who coordinates traditional and naturopathic medical treatments; they have won 7 awards in 7 years from statewide associations, including the Governor’s Excellence Award.

Someday, Paul and Dee hope to witness a seismic shift that ripples throughout our medical system and our elder care institutions. For now, they are working on a expanding their model of care by providing a blueprint for integrating their interconnected modality to other residential care facilities in Vermont.

Paul Kervick and Dee DeLuca live and work with these words as their guide: It is a basis of our endeavors, a single facet of a broader purpose, to redefine what it means to age in America, with security, dignity, and connection to vital and caring communities. It is said that it takes a village to raise child. We understand that it takes no less to uphold our elders.

About Living Well Group Living Well Group is a nonprofit organization with three campuses serving more than 100 elders and their families. Living Well Group’s mission is resident-focused caring for elders that promotes wellbeing within a wide range of community connections.

Source: 3.13.2017.