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Masonicare Seeks State Approval for Small House Concept

May 2, 2014

Article in the Meriden Record-Journal – published on April 30, 2014

By Andrew Ragali, Record-Journal Staff

WALLINGFORD — Nursing homes were built to be “very institutional in design,” said Stephen McPherson, Masonicare’s president and chief executive officer. The healthcare center on Masonic Avenue, built about 40 years ago, was part of this trend.

While these traditional nursing homes provide for healthcare needs, the long hallways and fluorescent lights don’t create a homey atmosphere. That is why Masonicare is seeking approval from the state to test the “small house” concept.

The model is new to the nursing home industry, but is gaining popularity.

“It’s really more state-of-the-art and centered on the individual,”McPherson said.

To adopt this model, McPherson said, Masonicare would spend an about $30 million to construct two buildings on the 88-acre campus at 22 Masonic Ave.

Each building would be three stories and circular. Each floor would house about 14 individuals with their own private bedrooms and bathrooms. In the center of each building, residents could use common space, such as a living room, kitchen or greenhouse. Masonicare would still be providing nursing care on a daily basis, but the residents would live in a more “homelike environment.” McPherson said. The housing would replace beds at Masonicare’s existing facility, he added.

A piece of legislation proposed by state Rep. Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, would include Masonicare in a pilot program to support the development of “small house” nursing homes. Adinolfi, ranking member on the legislature’s Aging Committee, is a volunteer at Masonicare. His mother lived at the facility.

“I saw the need,” said Adinolfi, who represents a part of Wallingford.

Many rooms have two beds, so there is a lack of privacy, he said.

Adinolfi said 22 other states are utilizing the “small house” model to date. The pilot program does not provide Masonicare with any funding.

The pilot project doesn’t need approval from state lawmakers, McPherson said, but he is hoping the legislature will pass the bill because any “small house” project needs approval by the state Department of Social Services and state Department of Public Health. Legislative approval would show these agencies that the model “is a concept worth studying,” McPherson said. McPherson said Masonicare will only pursue the model if it is approved for the pilot program.

Making nursing care less institutionalized is “part of healthcare reform,” said Angela Mattie, chair of the health management department at Quinnipiac University. There is an increased probability of sickness “whenever you go into an institutional setting,” she said. Not only does this endanger lives, it increases healthcare costs. Living in a “small house” model, or receiving care at home, “makes more sense from a financial standpoint and a quality of life standpoint,” Mattie said.

“Small house” care is an emerging national trend, said Julia Evans Starr, executive director of the state’s Legislative Commission on Aging.

“It’s what people want,” she said. “Research shows that people are far happier and that the care is better.

“Baby boomers want this,” she added.