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New branding for Shalom Park expands the concept of ‘continuum of care’

L-r, Bob Loup, Milissa Barres, Lori Carter and Dan Stenersen.THE “golden years” — as many find out — are not always so golden.

Some people are fortunate to retire at the age of their choosing, live with their spouses for many years past retirement, downsize to a more manageable home, travel with no pressure to get back to work, and do the things they never had the time for when they were younger.

Others – make that many – start out with these aspirations but are derailed by the physical, emotional or financial realities of aging.

This is only going to become more pronounced as 70 million Baby Boomers become seniors over the next two decades.

For the past 19 years, Shalom Park has given luster to the golden years for as long as possible, and is poised to accept the inevitable onslaught of the boomers entering their golden years.

The Intermountain Jewish News recently sat down with Shalom Park VIPs to learn how this community institution is allowing people to “age in place” with dignity, comfort, and a little bit of fun.

VIP participants were:

• Bob Loup, founder and board past chair, and recently a client. His mother was a resident here, and he recently received the services of Shalom Home Health Care as he recovered from a serious bout with pneumonia.

• Dan Stenersen, president and CEO of Shalom Cares, which includes all of Shalom Park’s services and facilities. He’s been with Shalom Park for 25 years, since 1986 when the planning for the campus and the move from Beth Israel on Denver’s West Side began.

• Milissa Barres, executive director of Shalom Cares’ community-based services, which include Shalom Hospice, Shalom Palliative Care and Shalom Home Health.

• Lori Carter, executive director of campus-based services, which encompass Beth Israel nursing home, the apartments and patio homes at Shalom Park.

THE Shalom Park campus at Parker Road and Belleview Ave. opened Aug. 19, 1992 as Beth Israel nursing home. It still looks sparkling and new. Loup and Stenersen agree that it’s worn well two decades.

Since its opening, Shalom Park has added an apartment building and patio homes for independent and assisted living. A wellness center is currently under construction.

From the beginning, Shalom Park’s leaders have been mindful of its role as a Jewish institution. Shalom Park serves only kosher meals, supervised by Scroll K —Vaad Hakashrut of  Denver — from the largest kosher kitchen in Colorado. Kosher meals on wheels are also prepared in Shalom Park’s kitchen.

For many years, Shalom Park has had a full-time rabbi on staff as chaplain. Rabbi David Zucker retired this year after 18 years. The new chaplain is Rabbi Steven J. Rubenstein. The importance paid to spiritual care is on par with medical and social care at Shalom Park.

The Denver Jewish community first heard the term “continuum of care” when Shalom Park was being planned in the late 1980s. Stenersen says that Shalom Park took the existing concept of continuum of care a step further than the industry standard.

The concept popped up in the mid-1970s, he said, and referred to senior living facilities which, on one piece of land, had multiple buildings with different purposes.

Those buildings could provide any combination of independent living, congregate living, assisted living and nursing home care. As seniors’ needs became more complex, they could move from one building to the next.

The idea was that their needs would be served by one institution on one piece of land, but in different facilities, as they aged.

Shalom Park revised the continuum of care model when by adding the apartments and patio homes in 1995. Instead of requiring residents to move from building to building, Shalom Park would bring services they need to them in their own apartments or patio homes, including various levels of assisted living and nursing care.

If round-the-clock skilled nursing care is required, the Beth Israel nursing home is right there.

Beth Israel nursing home has 135 beds. The campus includes 104 patio homes and apartments.

According to Carter, apartment and patio home residents can live independently, including cooking their own meals and driving their own cars,  then add a la carte services such as meals, medication and bathing assistance, housekeeping and pet care.

Each patio home and apartment has a full kitchen, and residents have a wide range of meal options from preparing their own to going to dinner in the communal dining facility to having their dinners delivered.

As important as meeting aging residents’ physical needs, Carter says, is the socialization. Activities appeal to a variety of interests: mah jongg, dinner clubs, book clubs, shopping, lifelong learning classes, even trips to Las Vegas and cruises. Shalom Park has its own chapter of the Red Hat Ladies.

Today, in the 2010s, the continuum of care is no longer confined to Shalom Park; it is now called Shalom Cares and brings services to seniors wherever they live in the Denver metro area.

The services offered have expanded greatly. The Shalom Cares menu includes Shalom Home Health, Shalom Palliative Care and Shalom Hospice.

Barres explains that Shalom Cares’ services have been available to Shalom Park residents for several years but now they are provided to a “broader geographical area.”

“But we don’t want to grow it too big,” adds Stenerson. “We want to stay small enough that we don’t lose track of people and families.”

Shalom Hospice is a service, not a place, according Barres. There is no in-patient hospice facility. Instead, hospice professionals go to terminal patients, wherever they may be — their Shalom Park patio home or apartment, the nursing home or their own home, nursing home or hospital elsewhere in the metro area.

Shalom Cares does have guest houses on campus for hospice and palliative care family members or caregivers.

Palliative care is a relatively new program provided by Shalom Cares. Barres dubs it “comfort care,” a piece of the continuum that had been missing.

A patient may have a terminal illness, yet not be quite ready for hospice. They are still dealing with the effects of treating their illness, such as chemotherapy, and need assistance doing so. Palliative care provides medical, spiritual, homemaking and social work services to these patients.

Palliative care is also for those who require pain management but do not necessarily have a terminal prognosis. “We help them manage their symptoms,” Barres explains.

Shalom Palliative Care is based on a three-pronged approach: clinical, psycho-social and rabbinical. An added comfort for the patient and his or her family is that Shalom Cares does not charge for its palliative care.

Stenerson explains that Medicare reimburses Shalom Cares for its hospice services, and there is a surplus of funds. “The earnings we realize from hospice services, we use to pay the cost of palliative care.”

“Our leaders determined that’s the right thing to do for the community,” Stenerson says.

A QUARTER century after community leaders such as Bob Loup, Jordon Perlmutter, the late Lester Gold, Gary Antonoff, Warren Toltz, Leonard Strear, the late Richard Tucker, and Dan Stenersen set forth their vision of what Shalom Park’s continuum of care would look like, it has now come to fruition.

And it’s still evolving.

A wellness center is under construction at Shalom Park. Stenerson says the new facility will be a “community asset,” available to people who have been ill or had surgery.

While in the hospital or rehab center, they will have received therapy and rehabilitation, but once they go home, “Medicare cuts them off and they’re back in a few months” because they failed to rebuild their strength.

The wellness center will provide a place for recovering patients to build their strength, balance and orientation, and to receive occupational therapy to help them return to the tasks of everyday living.

The center will include a much-needed warm water therapy pool — with no steps and no lifts — accessible by wheel chair.

The wellness center services will be covered by Medicare Part B. “We have found a way of making therapeutic exercise and rehabilitation services available to people who have no other way to get it,” says Stenerson.

Stenerson notes a bit of irony in Shalom Park’s mission: “We say we have one of the best nursing homes in the country, and we do everything we can to keep people out of it!”

That said, Beth Israel nursing home strives for perfection. According to Stenerson, “the most recent State Health Dept. survey for Medicare and Medicaid resulted in three findings — none of which were related to patient care. This compares favorably to the statewide average of 19 findings, and is an indication of the commitment to service and quality of life at Shalom Park nursing home.”

All patients at Beth Israel have a private room or suite, even those covered by Medicaid.

“This is their home now,” says Carter, “and we are guests in their home. We are aware that people have gone through losses when they come here, and they may come in with stigmas. We want to eliminate that at all costs.”

Carter says she has a “robust social working team” helping patients address their losses.

Memory loss patients are integrated with other residents in the nursing home. No lock-down facility here – Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are fitted with transponders which alert staff when they wander into unsafe areas.

EACH of these Shalom Park leaders — Bob Loup, Milissa Barres, Lori Carter and Dan Stenersen — brings a story that drives them to enhance the lives of seniors.

Bob Loup started his involvement with the old Beth Israel on the West Side in the 1970s. When he identified the need for Beth Israel to move and expand its scope, he brought together a group of like-minded community leaders on –—he remembers the exact date — Oct. 12, 1982, in his office and told them, “It’s time to build a new facility.”

Shortly thereafter, Loup took a national position with UJA and would be gone for four years. He asked commercial and residential developer and community leader Jordon Perlmutter to chair the board of what would be known as Shalom Park. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I grew up half a block from Beth Israel,” Loup says. Beth Israel — and then Shalom Park — served my family. It is close to my heart, close to my family and close to me. It’s been a fantastic ride.”

Milissa Barres became involved in hospice work as a social worker in 1997. People assume that hospice work is depressing. Not so, says Barres, who feels honored to help patients receive the care they deserve at the end of their lives.

“The patients and the families drive you. I get to be with people at one of the most significant times in their lives. You meet amazing people; you hear amazing stories; you know you’ve done something good.”

Lori Carter recalls being Bob’s mother Rose Loup’s social worker when she lived at Shalom Park. Carter warmly remembers bringing a portable oven into her office so Rose could teach her how to make the traditional Jewish dish, chicken fricassee.

It’s that kind of personal interaction with older adults that drives Carter.

Dan Stenerson is driven to serve the elderly for three reasons:

“The commandment to honor thy father and thy mother. That’s a given. It’s on the wall [of the Shalom Park lobby]. It’s in the text.”

“Tikkun olam. We are commanded to improve the world.”

“People are sacred. In the morning prayer, we thank G-d for another day, for the opportunity to make life better for people.”

At Shalom Park, he says “we make people, when they get up in the morning, glad to be alive.”

Stenersen is also inspired by the visionaries in the Denver Jewish community who share his respect for the fourth commandment. “. . . the efforts of women like Bella Mintz who begged for quarters, sheets, pillow cases” to furnish the original Beth Israel Home for the Aged, and volunteers like Libby Rosen and their efforts to make the world better. With leaders like Bob, Jordy, Leonard, Dick . . . How could I not want to show up here every day?”

“I get to do good work with people I love and respect, on behalf of a community which honors its mothers and fathers.  Why would I not do this? How many people have that kind of mix in their profession?”

Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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IJN Associate Editor |

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