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Vashon Community Care Center works to achieve new mission

Last year, Vashon Community Care Center set a new mission for itself: to enrich the individual’s experience of aging on Vashon through creative, collaborative, caring and community-wide services.

The care center is working toward fulfilling this mission through innovative staff training and new community partnerships.

Internally, according to Tuller, one of Vashon Community Care Center’s (VCCC) most important goals is to continue its work on being a client-directed care center, meaning that the autonomy and individuality of residents is respected and nurtured as much as possible. 

“We are already one of the best at having that approach to care,” Tuller said, noting that of the 17,000 nursing homes in the country, estimates are that only 200 to 300 have adopted this philosophy and are working toward it, she said. 

But on Vashon, it is the cornerstone of the philosophy of care.

“We believe that residents should have every right and expectation that they will have choices about their care and be as self determining as possible,” Tuller said.

This means that when a person moves to the care center, staff tries to find out as much as possible about that individual down to the details, for example, what time the person prefers to get up in the morning and if he or she likes coffee before getting up or after.

To meet this goal, VCCC employees recognized that there needed to be some changes in staffing, so now each staff member, regardless of his or her title or job description, will be trained as a caregiver, and when a resident has a call light on, any nearby staff member, not just an aid as is typical in most nursing homes, responds to it.

Many regulations govern care in a nursing home and who is required to do what. Tuller acknowledged they “will bump up against” some of the regulations as they make these changes, but said this training will go a long way to helping residents with some of their personal care chores and do so in a way that is fluid and “normalizing.”

“You do not need to be a Certified Nursing Assistant to help someone comb their hair,” Tuller said.

The course the staff will take is called “Fundamentals of Caregiving”; it is the class that is required for working in an assisted living setting or an adult family home, she said.

In addition to the caregiving class, all staff will receive training in working with people with dementia and in assisting people with dining.

In a further departure from common nursing home training, all staff will receive training in “How to Take Oral Histories,” a class at Vashon College. Tuller took the class last year and believes it will help staff at the care center create deeper connections with people.

No matter what age people are, she said, “They are their stories.”

Illiciting stories is an art, Tuller added, that some people are better at than others.

“Because of the nature of our work,” she said, “we should be good at this,” noting that it is a gift to ourselves to be able to learn those skills, to take a deep breath and listen.

The care center employs about 75 full- and part-time people, Tuller said, and to ensure that the training happens in smooth fashion, they now have a staffing and development coordinator.

When VCCC took on its strategic planning process last fall — after five years in the new building — they were joined by members of Vashon HouseHold, Providence Hospice, Vashon Health Center, Visiting Nurse Services of the Northwest, the Vashon Senior Center and home caregivers.

In their planning meetings and within the “action team” that followed up on the vision set forth from them, Tuller said, “We very deliberately aimed at community-wide services.”

To this end, in June they began partnering more with the Vashon Senior Center. VCCC provides transportation on outings with the Senior Center and participates in the senior swim time at the Vashon Pool.

Funding was cut some months ago for the lunch program that the Senior Center hosts, and VCCC has been providing meals for the cost of the food (excluding preparation time) so the meal program can continue to offer seniors an inexpensive, nutritious meal and time to socialize, Tuller said.

In partnership with Providence Hospice, VCCC now offers a respite care program, meaning that if a caregiver of a hospice patient needs a break, the patient can stay for up to five days at VCCC and be cared for at no cost to the patient or patient’s family.

Private pay respite care is available as well, Tuller said. If someone is caring for a family member and needs a break for any reason, that person can stay in either the Aspiri Gardens Assisted Living or the Beardsley Terrace Skilled Nursing.

The board of the care center will also be undergoing more training, according to board president Truman O’Brian, specifically about issues regarding elder care and finance.

The financial picture is difficult for many nursing homes, including Vashon’s. Finances are tight at VCCC mostly because the government reimburses for only 72 percent of the cost of the care for patients there paying only with Medicaid, Tuller said, noting that people covered only by Medicaid make up 85 to 95 percent of the population there at any time — a much higher percentage than at most nursing homes. There are are also people in the assisted living apartments paying with Medicaid, which does not cover the costs there, either. The same is true for the adult day health program.

“We are a mission driven organization,” she said.

It is that mission that has prompted them further into the community — and they will continue to look at ways to enhance the lives of all people aging on the Island, which, as Tuller points out, is all of us. Both Tuller and O’Brien believe that it is the right thing to do financially as well, so that as many Islanders as possible understand the work the nursing home does and can contribute in their own way.

Sidebar

Participate at VCCC

Volunteer

Vashon Community Care Center staff and residents welcome volunteers of all ages and for a variety of tasks.

Volunteers at VCCC range in age from 9 to 90, according to Naomi Goldick, volunteer coordinator.

Volunteers can help out in a number of ways, she said. There is the Dining Experience program, where people can help serve meals in the Beardsley Terrace Dining Room to nursing home residents, and with training, can help residents who require assistance eating.

Additionally, there is always a need for volunteers for one-on-one visits with residents and as trip escorts, according to Goldick, who said volunteers at Break Time, the adult day health program, are also helpful. In that program, a volunteer might visit with someone, help with an exercise group, serve a meal, assist with crafts or music or take someone on a walkabout around the building.

People with a special skill, such as playing a musical instrument, are also warmly welcomed.

VCCC partners with some of the Island’s schools, and VCCC Administrator Tuller said she would welcome more of those partnerships. Students at The Harbor School, for example, come every other week and participate in conversation cafes, play games, share their school projects and work in the community garden.

Come September, an intergenerational choir will form at VCCC so that kids and seniors can make music together. More information will be forthcoming closer to its beginning date.

All volunteers at VCCC must fill out an application, pass a background check and go through an orientation. Some also need to have a TB test.

“We are always looking for people who want to enhance the quality of life for people at the care center — as well as their own, Goldick said. “That’s one of the consistent feedbacks I have gotten from people--that they’ve ended up getting more than they’ve given.”

Those interested in volunteering should call Naomi Goldick at 567-4421.

Work

VCCC Board President Truman O’Brien encouraged high school students to consider VCCC as a good place to work on the Island. etc.

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