It was not all that long ago that care homes used to be somewhat soulless places, which local municipalities tended to build in more remote locations, often at the edge of a forest. While their elderly residents were well cared for medically speaking, they generally found themselves living somewhat outside their village or town.
The expectations now placed on assisted living are quite different. In our interview with Daniel Widmer, who manages the Tertianum Bubenholz residential care centre in Opfikon in the canton of Zurich, he explained what solutions and offerings are best suited to meet today’s residents’ needs and the direction of travel on which the assisted living sector is now embarking. He is engaged in implementing one of the most modern concepts for assisted living. In so doing, he is not only moving the Tertianum group decisively into the future, but perhaps the entire assisted-living sector as well.
Mr. Widmer, how is the assisted-living sector evolving?
In a word, the focus is moving back to the individual residents themselves.
So the are no major technological developments, or indeed revolutions, around the corner?
Absolutely not. Take a good look around our centre here. At Tertianum Bubenholz in Opfikon, we have a total of 120 residents living in 59 apartments and 43 care rooms. The key point is that these people are living here. This is their home. We are not a hospital, nor are we a hotel. In other words, we are not a place where people stay for only limited periods of time and are obliged to accept compromises in order to do so. Our residents come to us to live here. And that obviously means that they bring their lives with them. Their habits, their preferences, their environment … Just as they would when they move into an ordinary apartment in a multi-dwelling development.
Are you saying that residents at this Tertianum residential and care centre do not live as they would do elsewhere?
Oh yes they most certainly do. As much as possible. Ideally, when a new resident moves in here, he or she takes a comfortable apartment. Our rents for a welcoming place to call home begin at 1 750 francs per month. So the terms we offer are entirely in line with market conditions. The difference is that they include some major advantages.
And what are they?
Our building is right in the centre of the village. So the location is ideal in that it allows our residents to live as they have always done. They can do their shopping, cook for themselves, meet their friends and receive visitors. The difference is that this building was designed around the needs of older residents right from the start, with open access to all areas, ergonomically designed fixtures and fittings, and a washing machine and tumble drier in each apartment, rather than down in the cellar. That enables our residents to maintain an independent way of life for a long time. Then there is the safety aspect. Should our help be needed, someone will be available to assist right away. Seven days a week, twenty four hours a day.
Don’t the traditional home-care arrangements for older people provided by the state provide that service as well?
Not really. We are more flexible. Under the traditional arrangements, if someone needs help with their housework or in caring for their partner, that assistance may not always be available precisely between, say, 3.30 and 5.00 pm. And what if I have a fall at 10 pm? Or I am taken ill at 9.20 in the morning? The most important difference is that our system allows our residents a great degree of self determination. When a new resident moves in here, we guarantee that they can remain with us for the rest of their lives, should they so wish. Ideally, their residence with us will begin with many years of independent living in a comfortable apartment. Later on, should their need for our services grow, they can gradually draw on these up to and including full nursing care. We also have an acute care facility. That enables couples to continue to live together in the same place, even when one of them is unwell. That is a feature which most of our residents greatly appreciate.
You were saying that the focus is moving towards the individual.
Absolutely. Our key values are self determination, independence, dignity and respect. They are central to all the decisions we make here at Tertianum.
Doesn’t that apply nowadays to all care homes?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to suggest that anyone working in the care sector lacks respect for their residents. But the systems that have existed hitherto do not treat their residents with as much respect as they could. They tend to place constraints on them and limit their range of options.