The coronavirus pandemic is shedding new light on nursing homes and the number of people to rethink nursing homes and assisted living. Plenty of bad news has focused on senior populations stuck in assisted living facilities unable to meet their needs. Fortunately, there’s another option –one built on Wesleyan principles. Methodist Retirement Communities serves about 2,000 residents in 13 centers across Texas.
President and CEO Alan Brown explained that being a faith-based, nonprofit makes a world of difference. “That dictates how we take care of people,” he said. “We’re a Christian organization, and that’s reflected in the way we treat our people, in both our employees and our residents. It also drives us to excellence. We want to innovate and meet the needs in our communities.”
Methodist Retirement Communities took that commitment seriously in the midst of the pandemic. “As soon as we could, we put procedures in place to protect our people,” Brown said. “We had a rapid response team coordinating the effort.”
Strict guidelines were followed to ensure the safety of residents. Measures included minimizing groups and visitors, using masks and temporarily closing common areas.
At the same time, staff wanted to promote the mental and emotional health of residents. “We’re fighting isolation, loneliness and boredom,” Brown said. “We came up with innovative ways to connect people with their families.”
For example, the team made various forms of technology available to residents so they could try video chats, Zoom and Facetime. “We had virtual visits, window visits and car parades,” Brown said. “That’s the plus of being faith-based. We’re all part of a community. We’re a family.”
Residents in the Methodist Retirement Communities became involved in making masks and even started a program on Facebook where they provided afternoon sessions to engage students. For example, one taught a history class about her experience living through World War II.
“It was a great way to connect people,” Brown said. “It gave our older adults purpose and a sense of value – and it gave younger people a way to connect with the seniors.”
Now, Methodist Retirement Communities is preparing to safely reopen common areas, sticking to precautions and standards established by the CDC, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Texas Health and Human Services.
Methodist Retirement Communities was established in 1962 to develop and manage a new retirement community called Edgewater, when the Buccaneer Hotel in Galveston was gifted to the Texas Annual Conference. Edgewater included residential living apartments at Moody House and skilled nursing and rehab, including a special certified Alzheimer’s care unit at Turner Geriatric Center.
The second campus was acquired in 1970, Crestview Retirement Community in Bryan, which offers skilled nursing and rehab. Services grew to include assisted living, residential apartments and home health care services. In 1981, Methodist Retirement Communities built its first HUD-subsidized community next door to Crestview and added a second four years later. At the same time, the Town Creek community was constructed in Huntsville.
Methodist Retirement Communities continued to grow over the years – adding faciltiies in Corpus Christi, College Station, Lufkin, Texarkana, La Porte and League City.
Brown explained that the commitment to a faith-based environment makes the retirement community unique. There are chaplains on campus, and local pastors who come to the chapels on campus to host Sunday services, prayer and Bible studies. Residents are also encouraged to stay connected to their home churches.
“This is a time when people need their pastors the most, and they need to stay connected to the community,” he said. “They don’t need to feel forgotten.”
Since Methodist Retirement Communities is non-denominational, residents often attend each other’s services and learn about each other’s religions.
Residents also connect over the common areas, playing billiards or bridge, watching a movie or enjoying the swimming pool. Transportation brings seniors to plays and other events. For those in nursing care, Brown said, there are still virtual trips to take them all over the world.
He explained that residents can choose between cottage homes, apartments or assisted living. For those who need assistance throughout the day, nursing care is an option. Memory care is also a top priority.
“We want to be a pioneer in memory care,” Brown said. “We’re not just finding what works best; we want to define what best is. We want to be in the forefront.”
Methodist Retirement Communities also has HUD housing options for low income seniors. Brown explained that the organization’s goal is to provide a place where seniors can thrive, surrounded by friends, in a worry-free environment. That includes gibing residents a choice of food service, including bistros, room service and grab-and-go options.
Care is inspired by scripture, especially Matthew 7:12 or the Golden Rule, treating others the way you would want to be treated – and that can make a world of difference in retirement community living. For more information, visit mrcaff.org.