JOLIET – After 13 years, the Will County Health Department’s Sunny Hill Nursing Home multi-phase renovation is about 90 percent complete.
Sunny Hill Administrator Karen Sorbero said the 46-year-old facility, which has an average resident age of 87, should be fully converted in early 2017. The last phase will bring the bed total from 227 to 156, a change designed to give residents more privacy – and dignity.
Sorbero said to understand the change, people should imagine being acutely ill at 87 and being told they can’t live alone, and must come to a nursing home and share a bedroom and bathroom with strangers.
“Privacy is something all people want,” Sorbero said. “I think dignity and privacy are on an equal basis.”
She said that in recent years, coinciding with a national trend, it became clear that residents wanted more privacy. It was time for residents to be heard, she said. After all, Sunny Hill is their home.
The project is being observed by others in the industry. The nursing home’s renovations were featured this month in McKnight’s Long Term Care magazine. Sorbero said she’ll be discussing the article Oct. 9 at a meeting of the Will County Board’s Public Health & Safety Committee.
“That came out of the blue,” Sorbero said. “We’re getting calls from other administrators asking, ‘How did you do it?’ ”
She said hospitals have also been renovated to meet the trend toward resident privacy. Aside from resident or patient morale, private rooms have health benefits. Sorbero said they make it a bit easier to control the spread of infection.
Sunny Hill had 300 residents at its peak, she said. The new configuration will have six units with 26 residents each. Each unit will consist of 20 private rooms and three semi-private rooms, Sorbero said.
She said the nursing home becomes an option for families when care for their elderly relative becomes too burdensome. Many of the residents cannot be alone for too long, she said.
The nursing home will also save about $1.2 million annually by cutting staff through attrition and because of the reduction in residents. Fewer residents will lessen the amount of supplies and medicine that is used as well.