As a way to better serve its assisted living residents and the community at large, Lorien Health Services opened an on–site kidney dialysis center at its Harmony Hall campus in Columbia.
The impetus for the center, which opened in September 2020, was the staff’s desire to offer residents a safer, more convenient and pleasant experience, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We knew that by offering this on–site to Harmony Hall’s residents, it would reduce a risk for our residents, since they no longer have to endure transportation to and from an outside dialysis center,” said JoAnn Presbitero, Lorien’s vice president. “We even built a connecting hallway to the dialysis center to ensure that our residents would not have to leave the building.”
The dialysis center offers each patient an individual television monitor, so patients can watch what they want while receiving treatment. Initially, heated massage chairs were available as well, but patients found them uncomfortable, so staff swapped them out for more cushioned seats.
“Typically, dialysis patients enter clinical and cold treatment settings,” Presbitero said. “Our patients appreciate that Lorien understands the stress that comes with kidney disease and dialysis treatment. Our goal is to create a more peaceful environment that can alleviate their anxiety even just a little bit.”
Lou Reich, 73, transferred to Harmony Hall from another local nursing home community after he became dissatisfied with the care he was receiving. He said he researched other communities, as well as other dialysis options, but was drawn to Harmony Hall and its on-site dialysis center.
So far, he says, he is enjoying his experience with Lorien Kidney Care thanks to supportive staff who strive to make each dialysis visit a positive encounter. Reich notes that staff members do a “tremendous job of being punctual” despite their being spread thin during the pandemic.
Reich said that dialysis can be boring, but that the personal TV monitors help break up the monotony. “It’s a nice alternative to reading or spending time on the phone,” he said.
Over the last year and a half, the dialysis center has proven popular not only with on-site residents but also with the community, including patients coming from home and from area nursing homes.
Presbitero said there were plans in the works for Lorien Kidney Care to expand to Lorien Health Services’ eight other locations.
The family-owned company‘s Encore assisted living and skilled nursing community in Howard County became the first in the state to be certified in Parkinson’s Disease care. Awarded to facilities by the Parkinson & Movement Disorder Alliance, the certification acknowledges a commitment to staff training to create and deliver care plans with a focus on Parkinson’s symptoms, medication management and therapy considerations.
The highly complex, chronic neurodegenerative disorder’s symptoms can be different in each patient. Although the facility said it could not disclose the number of patients with Parkinson’s it sees, Presbitero said there continues to be a great need for disorder–specific treatment.
“While the disease is prominent in the age demographic we serve, there are not many resources available locally to help patients and families navigate the disease,” Presbitero said. “Lorien wanted to fill that gap and offer a safe, holistic and nurturing environment specific to Parkinson’s care.”
Part of the motivation to earn the certification came from the staff’s observation of patients being transferred to Lorien from area hospitals to recover from falls or for various other reasons.
“They often had Parkinson’s as their secondary or tertiary diagnosis,” Presbitero said. “We realized that we had to do something to treat the disease which often led to them being hospitalized in the first place.”
Lorien is working to gain certification for its Harford County facility later this year. “Our mission to provide the highest quality of care in a holistic and comprehensive way,” Presbitero said. “It is important for anyone who encounters a Parkinson’s patient to thoroughly understand the disease to better take care of them. That means everyone from housekeeping to food services to clinical staff must go through the comprehensive training.”