Presbyterian Senior Living has 92 years’ experience caring for body and soul
In 1927, when Ellen Parker founded Presbyterian Homes in a farmhouse in Newville, Pa., she couldn’t have imagined that her organization providing housing for widowed women would grow so significantly over the following 90 years. Now known as Presbyterian Senior Living, the nonprofit organization serves more than 6,000 senior citizens across the continuum of care in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Ohio.
Dan Davis, the senior vice president and COO of Presbyterian Senior Living, explains that the growth was very organic. As the women who first came to Ellen Parker’s farmhouse grew older, a need for care arrived and a personal care home was built for the aging widows. Davis adds, “From there, Presbyterian Homes began to expand with more small homes. And, as those continued to do well, eventually we moved into providing skilled nursing services and the communities grew into full continuing care retirement communities.”
Today, the organization offers affordable senior housing, independent living communities, memory care services, assisted living and personal care services, respite care, at-home services, end of life care, and adult day services. Its affiliation with the church allows Presbyterian Senior Living to continue providing care and housing for seniors even after their assets have been depleted. In fact, as Davis points out, “We view affordable senior housing as part of our mission, so we have been very active in the last several years at constructing new affordable housing communities for seniors with lower income.”
A Wide Continuum of Care
Operating in four different states and providing care for people with widely varied needs presents challenges and requires innovative ways of collaborating. Presbyterian Senior Living has a strong commitment to people as the cornerstone of the organization and this dedication attracts workers that have a service-oriented attitude.
Davis recognizes the importance of having such a strong team, “We have a dedicated internal support staff that spans virtually every service that we provide. We have someone, and sometimes more than one person, that’s providing support to dining, to finance, human resources, clinical services, community life, environmental services, etc. They get to all of our communities, typically once a month, and are there to help identify things to work on and to support and encourage.”
Technology that allows for video conferencing comes in handy when teams are spread out across 30 locations but still need to be on the same page when addressing common concerns. Davis further discusses how teams collaborate, “We also do what we call ‘professional practice groups’ so each of our disciplines will meet either in person or virtually multiple times a year. An individual from each community is at these meetings and encourages collaboration as they review and revise current policies, talk about trends, and identify new directions. So we’re engaging people throughout the organization to help provide that overall direction and information that we can then filter to the board.”
Local leaders meet with residents in town hall style gatherings where they can get input directly from those for whom they provide care. Giving residents that opportunity keeps them engaged and provides the site leaders with insight as to how they can better meet the varying needs of the community.
Similarly, a partnership with Masterpiece Living has helped Presbyterian Senior Living promote lifelong learning, spiritual wellbeing, physical activity, and friendship building. Davis lauds the partnership, “They have been a tremendous partner for us in improving how we are able to look at wellness from a different perspective and measure wellness for our residents. The assessments that Masterpiece Living has brought to us are based on scientific data about how people age and we’ve been able to utilize that to help formulate resident programs that can be measured on how they affect a person’s health.”
Building Company Culture
One of the biggest challenges facing any senior care organization is hiring and retaining staff. Fortunately for Presbyterian Senior Living, it has created a culture which rewards employees and builds camaraderie. Part of this undoubtedly comes from stability at the top — the company has only had three CEOs in its 92-year history.
A “Community Excellence Plan” encourages and rewards creative thinking at each location while also serving as a team building exercise that benefits employees and residents. Davis provides an outline of the initiative, “Each of our communities develop an individual plan that’s based upon the strategic plan of the organization and is designed to improve in areas that are typically outside the normal operations. For example, we had one community that developed a pollinator garden and residents helped develop that in conjunction with a local university.” At the end of each year, representatives meet and present their projects. The top three projects are awarded money to take back to their communities and further develop the projects.
The Everyday Heroes Program is another way Presbyterian Senior Living shows appreciation to its staff. In creating the program, the organization identified nine areas in which staff could help improve the community in which they work. Each community has a running record of how they are performing in each area and awards are given out every quarter for the team with the highest score and the team with the most improvement from the previous quarter. The winning communities are given credits which employees can use at the Presbyterian Senior Living store.
As Presbyterian Senior Living looks to begin its second century of providing care and affordable housing to seniors in the Mid-Atlantic, they are focused on continuing to innovate. A partnership with BrightLife Innovations provides technology to allow residents to take virtual tours of museums and even go on virtual safaris from the comfort of home. Additionally, a switch to electronic health records and security technology that provides location monitoring and keeps residents safe serve as examples of ways in which Presbyterian Senior Living is remaining on the cutting edge.
The organization is currently developing a resident engagement technology that will allow residents and their families to access information, make dining reservations, and report needed work orders. The platform is still in its planning stages, but if Presbyterian Senior Living’s history is an indicator of future success, we’re sure it will be another winner.
Supportive. Innovative. Compassionate. Presbyterian Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, providing retirement and senior care services for more than 90 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, we and our affiliates provide comprehensive services and accommodations to more than 6,000 seniors in 30 locations across the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware. Guided by the life and teachings of Jesus, the mission of Presbyterian Senior Living is to provide compassionate, vibrant and supportive communities and services to promote wholeness of body, mind and spirit.