Leading with Integrity
Heritage Senior Living is changing assisted living for the better
Pairing comfortable, attractive living spaces with a medical model of care isn’t just changing the lives of Wisconsin’s elders, it’s poised to change the assisted living industry as a whole. West Allis, Wis.-based Heritage Senior Living (HSL) is taking cues from a variety of disciplines, including hospitality, haute cuisine, and gerontology, to redefine the future of elder care.
For Milo Pinkerton, creating HSL was a mission of the heart. Pinkerton, an architect and real estate developer, built his first senior living community so beloved parents could be cared for in their twilight years in a beautiful, safe, nurturing environment.
As that first effort blossomed into a network of 16 communities across the state, Pinkerton recognized the need to lift the assisted living model several notches above the typical by embracing innovation and working to professionalize service delivery. The endeavor would blend quality service, consistent performance at every level, efficiency, and scalability, resulting in a true rarity in the assisted living space – a precise blend of clinical rigor and lifestyle amenities.
Heritage Senior Living COO Pierre Verger oversees this ambitious transformation, bringing a career in hospitality and senior care to bear on the company mission. That mission, “to create vibrant communities that feel like home, provide quality care, and employ compassionate caregivers who treat our residents as if they were their own family,” is a mission of his heart, as well.
“I like to say I grew up in a nursing home,” Verger told BOSS. As a child in Limoges, France, Verger spent countless hours in the nursing home where his father, an administrator, worked. It shaped his view of what elder care could be and sparked a passion for care that has been a common thread throughout his life. “I grew up surrounded by seniors in nursing homes that are very different from what we have today,” he recalled.
After completing his studies in accounting and law and receiving a master’s in international hotel and restaurant management, Verger found excitement in customer service, and parlayed that interest into a successful entrepreneurial stint as a luxury hotelier and restaurateur at age 25. At 31, he chose to return to his childhood roots. “I decided I should use my background to go back to the world I knew as a child, taking care of seniors. My motivation was that I’d tried for so many years to make the journey exceptional for important guests the moment they came into a hotel, and I wanted to bring that experience to nursing home residents,” he said.
After completing a master’s degree in healthcare and hospital management in 2008, Verger became an executive director at ORPEA Group, a European nursing home operator, where he ran over 30 campuses in southern France. During an educational visit to the States, Verger met Pinkerton.
It was, as they say, a meeting of the minds. Verger and Pinkerton formed a friendship, and in 2015 Pinkerton invited Verger to run Heritage Senior Living. “I was excited by the company and what the owner was doing, even though it was probably 200 times smaller,” he admitted. “We are one of the first providers in the state that are doing something unique in terms of the model.”
That unique aspect: a continuum of professionalized, highly competent care, delivered by well-trained, highly engaged, and caring staff, underpinned by strong relationships with families and residents. While assisted living facilities do well in meeting lifestyle needs, such as activities, comfortable surroundings, and food, Verger pointed out, “We need to also be experts in geriatrics. It’s as simple as that. We are growing, and we need to look at our model and define what care means at Heritage. We need the model to be unique, efficient, transferable, and repeatable. We run on quality, updating our processes all the time.”
To that end, Verger established a new VP-level role within HSL: Clinical and Medical Operations. Enter Jaime Schwingel, MSN, a nurse with an extensive background in executive leadership, risk management, and regulatory compliance. This move was integral to propelling the firm from a strictly social model to one that combines social aspects and medical care.
Innovation, Verger stresses, is key to creating the best places in which to age. At the top of the list are investments in clinical measures to ensure continuous quality, such as medication management, on-demand medical records, and creating policies and procedures that emphasize clinical excellence. Directors of Clinical Care and Nursing oversee HSL’s continuum of care, and, in another departure from typical assisted living protocols, medication management is handled by licensed practical nurses.
Staff training is continual; daily flash training sessions help staff at all levels keep their skills sharp. A research partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is one of several initiatives HSL is shepherding to develop tomorrow’s senior care professionals.
Heritage Senior Living has implemented PointClickCare (PCC) electronic health records software, which provides real-time chart information. A component of the software, the eINTERACT platform, is aimed at reducing hospital admissions by monitoring resident conditions and communicating findings to clinical staff.
HSL has also developed partnerships with pharmacies to simplify and add another level of safety and control to medication management. One such pharmacy, Medication Management Partners, Inc. (MMP), has developed a unique M-Pak packaging system to assemble medications by dosage and dispensing schedule, improving dispensing accuracy and compliance.
Additionally, HSL has been piloting and implementing a unique interface with MMP and the PCC system to streamline administrative duties around med management. The customized system is the first of its kind in the nation: prescriptions are generated by the physician, transmitted directly to the pharmacy, and forwarded to the Heritage Senior Living nursing staff for verification. Pictures provide a visual key that ensures the right pill gets to the right person.
HSL offers a true continuum of care that includes chronic disease management, orthopedics, post-stroke and neurological care, oncology, cardiac and pulmonary care, wound and ostomy care, and more. In-house specialists include a family practitioner, as well as audiology, podiatry, dentistry, and ophthalmology. Heritage Senior Living also provides home health care services, hospice, and physical, occupational, and speech therapies.
Creating a union of hospitality and healthcare is a challenge that everyone at HSL is deeply invested in, and it shows. For seniors, Heritage Senior Living is redefining what it means to be home.
In its Philosophy of Care, Heritage Senior Living has collectively committed to five principles, which serve as guidelines for all our programs and relationships.
Programs emphasize self-reliance within a supportive environment, enhancing the residents’ quality of life and helping them feel good about themselves.
Heritage Senior Living customizes its care programs to reflect the interests, abilities and preferences of each individual resident. Heritage understands each individual will experience the aging process differently.
Residents maintain and decorate their apartment or suite with personal belongings.
Residents are encouraged to continue to make their own decisions. Heritage’s programs are designed to honor individual preferences by providing plenty of variety.
Staff are committed to assisting residents with their personal needs in a manner that is always sensitive to the resident’s dignity.
Heritage Senior Living’s vision is to be the Midwest’s premier provider of senior living services, transforming the industry through innovation in care, employee development and resident lifestyle enhancement.
To this vision, Heritage:
Strives to deliver the highest quality of care within every Heritage community
Provides comprehensive and individualized care to each and every resident
Meets and exceeds both the cognitive and physical needs of residents
Creates a comfortable lifestyle for seniors based on free choice, dignity and respect
Promotes innovation and centers of clinical excellence