LeadingAge Magazine · November/December 2015 • Volume 05 • Number 06

Partnerships Boost Services and Make the Most of Expertise

November 17, 2015 | by Gene Mitchell

Partnerships Boost Services and Make the Most of Expertise

Eliza Jennings, Lakewood, OH, which provides the full continuum of care in the Cleveland area, recently opened a clinic to serve the residents of Columbia Park, a mobile/manufactured home park southwest of Cleveland. The Eliza Jennings Clinic at Columbia Park, which opened in September, is modeled after similar clinics that Eliza Jennings operates in 6 senior housing communities on the west side of Cleveland.

Columbia Park is home to 1,100 residents. According to Linda Hart, director of public relations for Eliza Jennings, the clinic is staffed by certified nurse practitioners and RNs who see residents in the clinic or in their homes. “We offer skilled home health care including home infusion therapy, PT, OT, speech therapy and wound care,” says Hart. “Other services include blood pressure checks, weight and glucose monitoring, balance screenings, labs or X-rays, and management of acute or chronic illnesses.”

Eliza Jennings’ Nurse Practitioner House Call program can bring all of these services to residents in their homes. Other services include homemaking assistance; help with shopping, grooming and dressing; and companionship and life enrichment activities.

Hart says Eliza Jennings’ partnerships with communities like Columbia Park “bring an improved quality of life that maximizes independence and well-being, thus enabling the residents to increase the time they are able to live independently in their homes.”

As more and more providers build their philosophies of service around wellness, some are turning to partners to help provide wellness programming and expertise in the most efficient manner.

A group of retirement communities managed by Life Care Services, an LCS company, are partnering with the Indianapolis-based National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS), a not-for-profit company that operates fitness and wellness centers, to provide fitness services for residents. NIFS staffs the communities’ on-site fitness centers and offers one-on-one service for residents, including exercise prescription programs, fitness assessments, exercise classes and health education. Services also include exercise classes and, in some cases, personal training for those in higher levels of care, such as assisted living.

“Our partnership started with Marquette in Indianapolis. We grew a few years later and began working with Greenwood Village South near Indianapolis,” says Bethany Garrity, director, corporate fitness and active aging services for NIFS.

At Greenwood Village South, the company caught the attention of Liz Bush, senior vice president/director of senior housing marketing and sales for Life Care Services, whose parents lived there. Bush asked NIFS to create a toolkit to help executive directors better equip their own exercise rooms and implement best-practice policies and procedures. NIFS now runs fitness centers in 19 Life Care Services-managed communities.

Garrity says that in most cases one full-time employee can manage a fitness center for a community with 300 independent living residents. Some communities, due to size or activity level of residents, may require more staff.

NIFS contracts directly with each community, usually working most closely with the community’s life services director once a contract is in place. NIFS uses a standard template to create regular reports on overall visits and other activity categories that are tracked.

“One reason communities look for a partner like this is that it’s a fairly specialized area,” says Garrity. “To have an outside partnership [with people] who have done this kind of work, it allows a community to buy into more than just one brain on a topic. There’s more managing of risk.”

“That’s what makes partnership valuable,” says Jeri Uhlmansiek, national marketing director for LCS. “Everyone has their area to focus on, and mutual trust between partners. With a partner you trust you can do what you do best. When they have the same values, principles and goals and you’re aligned.”

For LeadingAge members, partnerships with other organizations from the charitable or arts worlds are good for demonstrating social accountability, being responsive to residents’ interests and raising the provider organization’s local profile.

Splendido, a Mather LifeWays community in Tucson, AZ, forms partnerships with numerous local organizations, and resident involvement drives a lot of them. Nancy Boyle, community relations coordinator for Splendido, notes that many of the organizations her community partners with have Splendido residents as volunteers, donors or supporters.

“We’ve established partnership with local not-for-profits, mostly ones that residents are interested in or participating in already,” says Boyle. Partnership activities include helping with fundraisers or providing in-kind services.

Two of the most prominent partnerships are with:

  • Interfaith Community Services (ICS), a social services agency that helps financially distressed people with financial assistance, job hunting help, a food bank, caregiving services, health advocacy and more.
  • Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance (SAACA), which offers access to arts festivals, creative arts programs at the community (many taught by residents), concerts and more. (See this video for more about the relationship.)

Usually partnership agreements are built around events, often fundraisers for the partner organization. “We participate in their backyard or bring [the events] here,” says Boyle.

For instance, Splendido has hosted an ICS workshop on wills, and lunch-and-learns on wellness and nutrition. Residents have made donations to ICS’ Gifts of Hope program for children who otherwise wouldn’t have school supplies.

“Partnerships are mutually beneficial relationships between us and these local not-for-profits,” says Boyle. “We want to help them fulfill their missions and it is the same for us. Mather is a wellness company so if we can improve other people’s lives, our residents’ lives, our employees’ lives, and be contributing to the community, not just be in the community, that’s what we want to do.”