Editor’s note: This story did not run in its entirety in Friday’s Oxford Hills edition. It is reprinted below in full.

It’s not anyone’s idea of a perfect home, but it is for many in the end, home.

And some nursing care facilities in the area are doing more these days to try to turn institutional monotony into a life that’s sweeter for their residents.

“The catch phrase is culture change,” said Phil Dubois, administrator of Market Square Health Care Center in Paris. The first of the baby boomers is moving into nursing homes, “and we’re a consumer-oriented society. Everything you want, you can get quickly.”

He said when family members look into nursing homes for spouses, parents or themselves, they seek not just quality of care, but also quality of life.

“If you can keep the physical body alive, but you neglect the psyche and the soul, then what have you gained? In nursing homes, there are huge rates of depression. What do you do about that?” Dubois said during a recent interview.

In order to please this new wave of residents who expect more, nursing homes are re-evaluating almost everything, from nursing home decor to menus, to even buying computers with Internet access for increasingly savvy residents.

This might enhance their competitiveness in the market, but it’s more a philosophy switch, said Carolyn Farley, executive director of the Norway Rehabilitation and Living Center.

At her facility, employees now wheel a portable steam table around the dining room, allowing residents to choose their main course and vegetables. And if they want a big helping of mashed potatoes, they’ll get it.

“Our clients have so few choices left to them,” Farley said.

Another way to provide a semblance of home life is to redecorate.

A dining hall at Market Square has been redone with a rural, woody theme, with small details attended to. The flat, fluorescent lights in the ceiling are blue with puffy clouds painted on them. “A lot of nursing homes are trying to bring the outdoors in,” Dubois said.

Dubois said the old whirlpool room also will be redesigned with a tropical beach motif. Palm trees will be painted on the walls, soothing music will be piped in – or perhaps the sound of waves – and a heat lamp will add a warm, orange glow.

The bathrooms at the Norway Living Center also are more cheerful after a redesign. “We stood in the doorway,” Farley said, describing how she and some employees stared one day at the stark, white walls of one of the facility bathrooms, “and said, Oh my gosh, does this look like anyone’s bathroom at home?’ “

Sometimes residents use bath salts with old-fashioned aromas, like rose and lavender. “Aromas and smells bring back memories,” Farley said, adding that the facility also is experimenting with aromatherapy for some of the more agitated residents.

Activities, too, are important. West Paris’ Ledgeview Living Center’s activity director Rachel Wilday said she takes residents on shopping outings, to outdoor summer concerts, leaf peeping and to the Oxford Fair. She packs the weekly schedules with crafts, socials, celebrations, musical shows, even ice-cream making sessions.

“I think we have a pretty good time, she said.

“Here it is home,” Dubois said. “You’re dealing with their life and every aspect of their life.”


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