November 16, 2018

Guerin Woods: focus on ‘quality of life, not just care’

A resident—or elder, as residents are respectfully referred to at Guerin Woods retirement care community—shows off a rose she received as part of a birthday celebration for the elder seated behind her in one of the community’s villas on Oct. 13. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

A resident—or elder, as residents are respectfully referred to at Guerin Woods retirement care community—shows off a rose she received as part of a birthday celebration for the elder seated behind her in one of the community’s villas on Oct. 13. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

GEORGETOWN—Not far from New Albany among the wooded hills of southern Indiana lies the community of Georgetown. It is small and unassuming. But nestled on a hill within the town is a retirement community based on the latest, most modern concepts of elder care.

Guerin Woods, which accepts Medicare and Medicaid, offers a continuum of care for seniors age 62 and older, including independent apartments to those of low to moderate income, assisted living, skilled nursing care, outpatient and rehab-to-home services, and a memory care unit.

The community is operated by Providence Self Sufficiency Ministries, Inc. (PSSM), begun in 1994 by six Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Although Guerin Woods is not a sponsored ministry of the order, “We still have sisters on the board, and we embrace the values of Catholicism and the Sisters of Providence,” says PSSM founder, president and CEO Providence Sister Barbara Ann Zeller.

“We’ve been blessed throughout our history to have several residents in our apartments who are priests,” she adds. “And the Franciscan friars are just down the road.”

Guerin Woods started in 2005 with a neighborhood of 22 two‑bedroom independent living apartments. As the next phase for assisted living and skilled nursing was about to begin, Sister Barbara was introduced to the “villa” concept.

The villas are 7,100 square‑foot dwellings with 10 private rooms, an open kitchen and dining area where meals are shared family style around one table, a living room, den, patio/garden, and therapeutic spa. One villa is designated as assisted living, and six for skilled nursing care. The newest villa, added in 2015, is designated for memory care.

“Our CNAs [Certified Nursing Assistants] in the villas are called ‘compatissants,’ which means ‘tender‑hearted care’ in French,” says Lynn Reker, director of mission advancement for PSSM. “They do more than give medical help. They do laundry, they cook three meals a day, they do activities with the elders. They promote socialization and really make the villa feel like a family and a home.”

The compatissant concept is one of the ways Guerin Woods focuses “on quality of life, not just care,” says Sister Barbara. “We try to find what the definition of ‘quality of life’ is for each person. It’s all about what they want. They can sleep in if they want. They can have breakfast when they want.

“Everything is person-centered. We walk with them to get to know their story and to get to know them.”

But quality of life does not mean less quality of care. Guerin Woods, which accepts those on Medicare and Medicaid, offers its elders, short-term patients and outpatients the standard physical, speech and occupational therapies. But residents also receive a range of other services like music, aroma, art and pet therapy.

And they have opportunities for larger-scale opportunities as well. Group activities and gardening are available at the Guerin Woods Senior Center, and generational interaction is possible with families staying in the adjacent, PSSM-operated Providence House, where families reunite and adjust after separation by foster care.

As the number of elders with dementia in the villas increased, the memory care villa was added. It employs the most up-to-date research and concepts, including an attached, fenced-in sensory garden, says Reker.

“People with dementia tend to pace, so this is a safe and therapeutic way for them to be outside,” she explains.

By offering independent apartments, assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation and memory care, elders can “age in place” at Guerin Woods, says Sister Barbara.

“We’ve strived to meet the needs of the times, which is exactly what that dear lady [St. Theodora] came to do,” she says. “It’s like a rolling horizon—you have to keep your eye on the current and future needs.”
 

(Guerin Woods is located at 8037 Unruh Dr., in Georgetown. For more information, go to www.guerininc.org/senior or call 812-951-1878.)

 

Related story: Four residences in Archdiocese of Indianapolis base their care of seniors on Catholic values

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