“People come here to live, not to die,” says Jan Preble, director of arthritis resources at Jones-Harrison Residence, a long-term care facility based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that has been serving the elderly since 1888. In 1999, the home launched its Support Through Arthritis Resources (STAR) program, an ambitious effort to help the elderly make the most of their lives. According to Preble, the main purpose of STAR is simple: “to promote independence and improve residents’ quality of life.”
Preble has worked in the arthritis field for a number of years and claims that the vast majority of the nation’s elder care facilities neglect the problem of arthritis. Not only does Jones-Harrison educate its residents about arthritis, but it also makes a concerted effort to ensure that all of its staff are knowledgeable about the particulars of the condition.
Furthermore, as Preble explains, Jones-Harrison has done nothing less than “change the physical environment” in which residents live. Large-button remote controls and televisions, adapted lamp switches, and a number of other modified appliances have been placed in the rooms at Jones-Harrison so that residents can take better care of themselves.
“Though it’s really no trouble for us at all, when a resident has to ask a nurse to help her change the channel on her TV, the resident feels like she’s being a nuisance. But with the everyday equipment we’ve introduced, patients can take care of little things by themselves.” Preble speaks fondly of examples of human dignity restored through Jones-Harrison’s arthritis program. “It may not seem like much to us,” she says, “but it may make all the difference in the world to a resident to be able to comb her own hair again.”
The Wasie Foundation, also of Minneapolis, has had a long relationship with Jones-Harrison—in fact, the grandmother of Wasie president and CEO Gregg Sjoquist was a patient at Jones-Harrison. And Sjoquist himself sits on the board of the Jones-Harrison Foundation.
Thus it was not surprising when, in 2000, Wasie gave two handsome grants to Jones-Harrison: one for $500,000 that was paid in full last year, and the other a $1 million grant payable over five years. Shannon Mieseler, a program associate at Wasie, is as enthusiastic about STAR as Preble is. “We’re really excited about what the arthritis care program offers,” explains Mieseler. “Jones-Harrison did an extraordinary job researching all the different aspects of their program. They consulted leading experts around the country and sought out the best advice they could possibly get.”
A good chunk of Wasie’s money went to new, senior-friendly exercise equipment. The machines automatically adjust to fit the needs of individuals, who are given personal keys that activate the equipment. “I get a real kick out of it when families visit, and our residents can show off by ‘pumping iron’ on our brand-new equipment,” says Preble. “A grandson of one of our residents told his grandmother that her equipment was far nicer than his.”
Residents are put on a vigorous exercise regimen that allows them to ward off arthritis and maintain good joint health. Exercise physiologists work one-on-one with patients, closely monitoring their progress and allowing the residents to improve their “joint integrity” and reduce their pain. Jones-Harrison has also installed a warm water therapy pool to supplement its strength-training program. The thoroughness of STAR is paying big dividends. “Some of our residents have been in the arthritis program for a year now, and I’ve seen many of them make amazing improvements in their physical health,” Preble says.
According to Mieseler, Jones-Harrison has been a perfect fit for the Wasie Foundation, which is always searching for entrepreneurial philanthropy. “We want to find innovative ways to make a difference, and Jones-Harrison’s approach is certainly groundbreaking. They are essentially challenging the old theory that residents in long-term care facilities just go there to live out their last days. Jones-Harrison is presenting a new theory, that residents can come and work toward a renewed strength not only for their physical body, but their emotional outlook as well.”