Taking Care of Dayton

 Taking Care of Dayton

Bethany Lutheran adds in-home services to help older adults maintain independence

Since its beginnings as a community for aging widows, Bethany Lutheran Village has sought to be a refuge, a comfortable place for their residents to live. The Lutherans, who bought the 100 acres of farmland in 1946, wanted it to feel like home. Residents have everything they need, from church services, banking, art classes, fitness activities to hair appointments. They can live independently in cottages and villas with help in assisted living, or with skilled medical care in the nursing home.

But as much as Bethany’s residents and staff will share that Bethany is just the kind of supportive community its founders hoped, more and more older adults have a strong preference for staying in their own homes. With the wave of Baby Boomers reaching retirement, the numbers of those who need extra help staying in their homes will soar.

“Home is where you are comfortable,” says Judy Budi, vice president of residential care, at Bethany.

So, two years ago, Bethany launched a new home-health arm, Graceworks at Home, and this summer invested $500,000 in the therapy rehabilitation area where patients come to recover and get back to their own homes as quickly as possible. “I have learned that what we as health care providers and families believe is best isn’t necessarily where the older adult wants to live,” adds Budi.

Taking Bethany Home

Graceworks at Home was a direct response to aging individuals who want to stay in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible, says Larry Ramey, communications specialist for Graceworks Lutheran Services, the nonprofit that operates Bethany Village and other services throughout Ohio and Kentucky.

As one of Dayton’s largest, oldest retirement and nursing care communities, Ramey believes Bethany can take its expertise in senior care into the community. “Our job is to respond to people’s preferences and needs,” he says. Graceworks at Home offers skilled medical care such as infusions or wound care, and personal care services, such as help with bathing, grocery shopping, cleaning or cooking.

Since January, the skilled care portion has grown from 21 patients to 60, and the personal care business has grown from 45 to 90 clients. Now 35 percent of business has shifted off-campus. “It has absolutely exploded,” says Bonnie Smith, Graceworks at Home administrator. The goal is to grow the business to 80 percent off-campus. She’s hiring five employees a week to meet the growing demand.

Recovering and returning home

Under new hospital reimbursement policies, many patients are leaving hospitals earlier than they would have in the past. That means they have more medical needs when they return home, requiring more home care. It also means they might need to transfer to a short-term rehabilitation center.

Bethany opened a newly renovated physical rehabilitation space this summer to bring its therapy services to a higher level. The 4,500-square-foot space is more spacious and advanced, a 50-foot-ceiling track crosses the room to help patients relearn to walk. It’s part of a custom-built harness system, designed by Dayton-based M.A.S.S. Rehab, a company owned by a local professor and inventor. The staff has even doubled in the past 10 years.

Patients can stay from one week to 100 days at the rehab unit. They come to recover from knee replacements, heart surgeries, strokes, and other health crises. Nurses quickly get a full history to understand how the patients were living in their homes, according to unit manager Christy Hill. Did they sleep in the bed or a recliner? Did they wake early or sleep in? “We try to make it as comfortable as possible so they heal faster,” she says.

The desire to “age in place” is occurring across the country, and Graceworks at Home administrator Smith says she believes it will be particularly strong in the Dayton region. “We aren’t a transient culture,” she says of Dayton. “They are long-term Dayton residents.”

So is Bethany Village. In 1946, The Lutheran Inner Mission League bought a 100-acre farm and its four houses to develop a home for aging widows. Ten women lived in one of the homes, and a second home to accommodate 10 more women opened the following year.

In the 1940s, Centerville was a far-flung outpost of Dayton, so far south that some wondered why the Lutheran Church would be building these homes “halfway to Cincinnati.” “We’ve grown up here,” says Ramey. “We understand what folks here want and need.”