As we move toward and through retirement, we find ourselves making decisions as huge as we made in our teens and 20s. Like those earlier times, these decisions unleash intense anxiety, even when supported by loving family members. The stress compounds when facing a compressed timeline or experiencing unfamiliarity with the options for services and communities to meet pressing needs. So, when faced with the decision of choosing a retirement setting for yourself or a loved one, why choose a Presbyterian senior living community?
Though such communities welcome residents of all beliefs, Presbyterians find a comforting familiarity in communities with the familiar name. Then again, familiarity is not limited to name only. The kinds of connections that define Presbyterian church-life inevitably wane in our older years, so such a community can revive such connectionalism right within its walls. Familiar faith values permeate the culture thanks to programs led by and care given by persons of faith, including active and retired pastors. Also, the habit of doing missional outreach finds continued expression as volunteer programs contribute vibrant connection to the community-at-large and offer individuals the chance to continue to give back and to serve.
More than anything, in the senior communities created out of the rich tradition of the Presbyterian Church, people matter. Compassion is expressed in the care offered. Respect and dignity undergird the relationships throughout the community.
A host of differences attach to Presbyterian communities’ status as non-profit, church-related, organizations. They stand in stark contrast to the for-profit senior living facilities. Numerous studies have highlighted an overall difference in the quality of services and outcomes received in non-profit senior communities. These studies reveal that the level of staffing, the programs and lifestyle offered, the manner in which residents needing care and services receive them, and the overall clinical outcomes are better managed in non-profit facilities than in for-profit ones. This information likely comes as no surprise to many Presbyterians. When one compares the for-profit to the not-for-profit communities, the differences in quality and service stem from the differences in motivation. While non-profit communities are motivated by mission and service, the for-profit communities always need to keep in focus the need to deliver shareholder returns and maximization of profit margins. A well run non-profit is typically the best investment for retirement because the monthly fees are used for the residents’ enjoyment and betterment. In a for-profit community, a large portion of these fees is distributed to those shareholders.
Presbyterian communities have earned a reputation for their intentional focus on the connection that employees of the facility have with residents and families. From the interview through orientation to day-to-day work, staff members are held to the highest standards in providing compassion and consideration to those served. Employee turnover and staffing ratios are lower, and the quality indicators are consistently better than the industry average among these faith-based facilities. Many of the communities employ pastors who attend to the spiritual needs of the residents and families, also offering opportunities for spiritual growth and worship.
In short, Presbyterian retirement and healthcare communities are industry leaders. From the quality of life enriching programs to the stability of leadership and caliber of care, you will generally find them to be exceptional. We who serve in Presbyterian senior communities believe that the Spirit of God works in and through the community to enhance connection with God and others. We pour ourselves into fulfilling the goal of sustaining lives consistent with the residents’ own choices and beliefs. As we together draw strength from the body of Christ in community, so the community draws strength from its connection to us. This is connectionalism at its best.
Hattie Wagner is president of Presbyterian Homes and Services of Kentucky, Inc. and a teaching elder in the PC(USA). Godwin Dixon is the current Board Chair of PAHSA and CEO of Presbyterian Communities and Services based in Irving, Texas.
For more details on the difference in care centers, see “Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Nursing Homes: Is there a Difference in Care?” at medicareadvocacy.org