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Adding Life to Years

Roy Enterline teaches a Bible study on the 23rd Psalm at The Neighborhoods. (PHOTO: ARVELLA MCCOLLUM)

Healthcare in the 21st Century – Part II

BROKEN ARROW—As Roy Enterline entered the small café at Baptist Village Communities’ (BVC) newest facility, The Neighborhoods at Baptist Village of Broken Arrow, there isn’t a hint that this man is 94 years old. His blue eyes almost sparkle as he speaks to Arvella McCollom, resident services director, about obtaining a new T-shirt (double XL he insists) with the BVC logo on it.

“Well, I guess that would be buy-in,” stated Bill Pierce, BVC’s 20-year president.  “Roy is typical of those who come and live with us,” he said. “The men and women who are a part of our lives here serve together with all of us in ways that maximize their unique gifts and give them important responsibilities as we seek to serve one another in love.”

Enterline was born in 1915 in Piedmont, and proudly says, “You know, I’m a Bison through and through.” A 1950 graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University, he furthered his theological education at Central Seminary (the forerunner to Midwestern Seminary) and served as pastor of eight churches throughout the state of Oklahoma. “I also served with the Home Mission Board—you know we used to call it that—for a while and really enjoyed that as well,” he said.

He is quick to express concern about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“It seems we are a stubborn bunch,” he said. “In my day, we were willing to change and adapt to the needs of our time. Today, we seem stuck in our ways.”

Enterline serves as a volunteer chaplain for the entire facility, and leads Bible studies throughout the week. “I’ve just finished an in-depth study of the 23rd Psalm, and I have developed a 12 week series in a verse-by-verse study of this precious passage of Scripture,” he states as he emphasizes that Bible study is the key to his mental and physical well-being. “God has been good to me here, and this place is not simply where I live, this is my family.”

Pierce enjoys telling the story about Enterline’s first day at The Neighborhoods. Breakfast for Enterline usually includes old-fashioned oatmeal—not instant oatmeal—but “the real stuff.” On his first day as a resident, he commented that the oatmeal available was not what he usually ate for breakfast. “The staff went out and bought exactly what he liked,” Pierce said.  “That is who we are here—family. This should be as much like home as possible.”

Charting a New Course of Care

Pierce insists that the motto (prominently displayed at various key entrances of the new building) is more than mere words. “Serving God, serving you, serving together represent our theological confession and our hope that we strive to attain together,” he says as residents pass by and speak to him.

As Jim Meyer approaches (the man largely responsible for launching this new place of care for senior adults), he seems to be a man on a mission. Noted for his past successes in senior adult ministry and facility management, this building became for him a transformative experience in his career.

“There is really nothing (else) like this place,” Meyer insists.  “This facility makes possible an entirely new direction in senior adult assisted living.”

94-year-old Enterline exercises daily at The Neighborhoods' Wellness Center. (PHOTO: ARVELLA MCCOLLUM)

Compared with the average nursing home, this seems to be an idea whose time has come. With more people living longer, many senior adults are no longer accepting the decision to simply live out their days in a nursing facility. To the contrary, walking through this building, there is nothing about it that resembles the traditional hospital look and feel of most nursing homes. No nurse’s station in the middle of long corridors. No strange smell. No sight of men and women simply sitting idle as they wait to die. This place resembles something between a conference center, a hotel, and someone’s living room. It literally bustles with activity.

Four neighborhoods make up the areas where residents live:  Liberty Park, Freedom Hill, Unity Square and Faith Harbor. Two of the neighborhoods are specially prepared for those residents requiring memory care—the new term for those people suffering from Alzheimer’s or some other mentally incapacitating condition.

‘The great benefit of these residences is that they maintain and even restore the dignity of people who live with us,” McCollom said. Residents sleep as long as they desire each day—no waking them all up at the same hour like a typical hospital. “They are at home,” she says.  “They can sleep as long as they like.” Breakfast can be prepared for them or they can serve themselves when they are ready to eat.

A long dining room table is prominent in the middle of a large living area dotted with pictures of residents who genuinely seem to enjoy being around one another.

McCollom says that meal times are the most enjoyable for those here because “it is just like home.”  Gone are the prepared trays that resemble the stereotypical “hospital food.” Meals are served in large bowls that are passed down the table just as they would be at any other family meal. Laundry facilities and walking paths cause those that live here to speak of this as “home” with the same affection they describe their time in residences of their past.

A Pressing Need

The growing number of senior adults in need of long-term care will almost double over the next decade. Admittance to a facility such as The Neighborhoods comes at a steep cost. The base-line figure for basic services here begins at around $36,000.  “And that is the low end,” Meyer states. How people afford to live in such a place comes through private pay options of retirement funds, pensions or government assistance and through the Larry Adams Assistance Fund—a special account that subsidizes the costs for some residents based on their financial need.

BVC also receives funds from The Cooperative Program—the unified financial plan of their ministry partner, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Through this capability of financial management, BVC joins other ministry partners in assisting Oklahomans at critical times in their lives. Pierce believes that the strain for funding will only grow over the years—both for local congregations as more needs manifest themselves as their members age and for facilities such as The Neighborhoods who seek to break the mold of traditional “hospital-like” assistance for senior adults.

“The financial capacity of many individuals will certainly limit their options as they age,” Pierce says. “There are many challenges to caring for an aging population, and we are only beginning to see the financial costs associated with coming to a place like this.”

Former IMB missionaries Jim and Ruth Courtney are residents of The Neighborhoods. As they come out of their rooms for lunch, McCollom hugs them both and tells Ruth that she “is a beautiful woman.” Pierce points out that missionaries and others who have served the Church so very long and so very well desperately need help through this season of their lives.

What becomes very difficult to maintain is the quality of life that a facility such as this provides.

“We must learn to provide this level of life and care to more people, and we are thankful this place has already become a laboratory where others come to study and learn how to both replicate and improve what we are doing here,” Pierce said.

He seems concerned, however, that the future could hold a reality that most are not prepared to embrace.

“The future of caring for senior adults is squarely centered around the reform of healthcare and ways that local churches can assist those who will need a place like BVC’s newest facility as they age,” he said.

The looming danger is that most people will not be able to afford such a place as life could easily become more years with less life.

“We hope to be here and expand our work so that many people might really be able to add life to their years,” Pierce concluded.

Author: Douglas Baker

View more articles by Douglas Baker.

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  • One solution to long term care for seniors is the purchase to Long Term Care insurance. My wife and I signed up for this insurance in the 1980s so that our whole estate would not be wiped out if we developed some type end-of-life illness that required institutionalized care — such as Alzheimer’s.

    In the case of myself and my wife our total annual premium for long term care is around $2,400. We have always paid all of this out of our own pocket. This is insurance that we hope neither of us will have to use.

    I don’t know whether it is feasible for churches and mission boards to provide such insurance for their employees or not. One possibility would be that the mission agency would provide a group policy offering that employees could purchase on their own.

    One of the keys to long term care is signing up while you are still young so your premiums are affordable. I believe more people would sign up for this if their employers made it available and provided an info session that explains the potential benefits. If people would buy into this it would likely obviate some of the need to finance this type of care from Cooperative Program funds.

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