Senior-care residence is home away from home
By Karen Iwamoto
The light-filled waiting area at The Plaza Assisted Living residence in Waikiki looks more like a hotel or apartment lobby than a care home. A short walk up the hall leads to a restaurant-like dining area with a view of Kalakaua Avenue. There’s even a salon.
All of that is intentional, said Tricia Medeiros, chief operating officer of The Plaza.
“People are surprised when they first come here,” she said. “It’s not what they expected when they think of a care home.”
However, she believes The Plaza’s model is what the elderly and their families should expect of senior care.
“Ideally, older people want to remain at home,” she said. “If they start to have trouble and need a little help, more supervision, this is the next best place. They can come here and it’s the closest thing to home. Our staff prepares their meals and helps them manage their medication. For those who need more help, our staff can help them with bathing, and getting dressed and undressed.
“The goal is to help them remain as independent as possible,” Medeiros added.
The Plaza operates five residences across Oahu, and all of them are designed to feel like a home, not a facility. Think kitchens and restaurants — not cafeterias — apartments and parlors — not hospital rooms.
Patients are treated like friends, encouraged to socialize and take excursions, and listened to respectfully. The emphasis is on building personal relationships, and the staff is trained to get to know the residents through the “Life Story” approach. This entails extensive interviews with residents and their family members to create documents that tell the residents’ stories — how many children and grandchildren they have, where they worked, what they like to do, memorable events and more, Medeiros said.
Because The Plaza emphasizes relationship-building in its day-to-day operations, personality is a priority when it comes to hiring employees.
“We’re looking for people who are nice, flexible and friendly,” Medeiros said. “I can’t teach people those things. They have to come here with those values already in place. I can teach a skill, but I can’t teach a person to be nice. Personality is the biggest factor.”
Ultimately, the prospective employees’ dedication to service will be the deciding factor.
“It’s more than a paycheck for a lot of our employees,” Medeiros continued. “It’s the feeling you get from providing and caring for others.
“We get a lot of applicants from hospitals, and the thing that seems to attract them is the different environment,” she said. “The environment here is friendly, it’s not clinical. We facilitate opportunities for our employees to interact with our more independent residents.”
Another benefit is the security of a growing job field. Medeiros pointed out that the population of the retirees and elderly who will need care continues to grow, and “it’s not going to go backward,” she said. The Plaza found there was enough demand to expand the number of its facilities even when the economy was going through a recession.
Once in the company, there are plenty of opportunities for promotions and to acquire new skills, she added.
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COMPANY: The Plaza Assisted Living
LOCATIONS: Mililani: 626-8807, 95-1050 Ukuwai St.; Moanalua: 833-8880, 1280 Moanalualani Place; Pearl City: 455-8808, 1048 Kuala St.; Punchbowl: 792-8800, 918 Lunalilo St.; Waikiki: 955-0800, 1812 Kalakaua Ave.
COO: Tricia Medeiros
EMPLOYEES: Approximately 500
NOTEWORTHY: The Halia Memory Care Program at The Plaza is designed for residents with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, using internationally recognized models, which include informing patients of diagnosis, providing a stimulating environment and keeping them free of psychotropic medications when possible, among other pledges.