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AARP New Jersey Gathers State Leaders and Policy Experts to Discuss a Better Nursing Home Model for New Jersey

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ (Dec. 2, 2022) — AARP New Jersey, national policy experts, state decision makers, advocates and industry representatives gathered today to discuss small house nursing homes as a new model for transforming New Jersey’s long-term care facilities.

The roundtable, hosted by AARP New Jersey at The Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick, comes just days after Governor Murphy announced an independent review of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including another look at the response to vulnerable residents in congregate care settings. The Mannatt report from June 2020 highlights how residents and staff are particularly at risk of an infectious disease outbreak with many of New Jersey’s facilities having three or four beds per room.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated long-standing deficiencies within our long-term care system,” said Stephanie Hunsinger, AARP New Jersey State Director. “Tragically, more than 9,800 long-term care residents and staff in New Jersey died during this pandemic, leaving more and more individuals and families looking for alternatives to traditional institutionalized care settings.”

New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner, Judith Persichilli, kicked off the roundtable by sharing the status of New Jersey’s long-term care system as well as the state’s commitment to helping residents make more informed decisions about choosing a nursing home, and its commitment to housing needs for older New Jerseyans, including more long-term care options.

“Small house nursing homes can play a critical role in transforming our long-term services and supports system,” said Katie York, AARP New Jersey Associate State Director of Advocacy. “Small house nursing homes are structures with fewer residents and a residential-style of living for individuals in need of nursing-home levels of care. The homes are built to look and function like homes in a community and are shaped by three core values: real home, meaningful life, and empowered staff.”

“As we have seen throughout the COVID crisis, serious transformation of New Jersey’s long-term care system is needed to ensure safer, higher quality resident care,” said Laurie Facciarossa Brewer, NJ Long-Term Care Ombudsman. “Part of this transformation must include reducing the imprint of nursing homes and making existing facilities more homelike, person-centered spaces. Greenhouse and other small nursing home models have been very successful in achieving these goals in other states and should be developed in New Jersey as well.”

One of the main topics discussed during the event was how small house nursing homes have a fundamentally different workforce model with a person-centered approach. The direct care workers are trained as certified nursing assistants and receive additional training in meal preparation, laundry, housekeeping, and activities.

The design gives more responsibility to direct care workers as they operate as a self-managed team and are empowered to make decisions and are responsible for the residents’ quality of life. Direct care workers partner with the clinical team for the services that residents receive and managing the home and daily schedules to respond best to residents’ choices and needs.

“This design allows for any staff member to respond in the moment to what a particular resident needs, which is a noticeable difference from the model often employed by larger nursing homes,” said Susan Reinhard, AARP Public Policy Institute Senior Vice President and Director. “In larger nursing homes, workers typically perform only one or two functions for large numbers of residents; a worker must call in someone else if a resident requires something they are not tasked with performing.”

Speakers at the roundtable today included, Stephanie Hunsinger, AARP New Jersey State Director; Judith Persichilli, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner; Susan Reinhard, AARP Public Policy Institute Senior Vice President and Director; Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, Chair of the NJ Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee; Laurie Brewer, New Jersey Long-Term Care Ombudsman; Robert Jenkens, Jenkens Consulting LLC; and Rebecca Priest, project coach at the Green House Project.

“Housing for seniors is at the top of my priorities in the General Assembly, so I commend AARP for convening an impressive group of stakeholders to discuss this innovative housing alternative,” said New Jersey Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, Chair of the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee. “The small house nursing home model is very promising in the way of providing more individualized attention to seniors and better work environments for staff. I look forward to continuing this conversation and seeking ways to further develop this concept in New Jersey.” 

“Our mission is to empower people to choose how they live as they age,” said Hunsinger. “Small house nursing homes not only provide a better quality of care for individuals, but they also provide a better quality of life, while also producing higher satisfaction rates among staff. We’re looking forward to more discussions on how to foster the development of small house nursing homes in New Jersey.”

Courtesy AARP New Jersey

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