Metcalfe Gardens creates a unique retirement experience that stands apart from the rest.
Founded in 1988, as one of St.Thomas’ two retirement homes, Metcalfe Gardens began in a time when retirement homes were a fairly new concept in the area. The building is five stories high, and has 97 suites of seven different sizes. The home houses anywhere from 92 to 106 residents, on a regular basis.
“There was a need for it but I think that not knowing what it was, our company had an idea of customer service like the hotel industry,” said Lori Lackey, General Manager, speaking about the early days of Metcalfe Gardens. “We realized, along the way, that we had to provide some level of assistance with personal care to be viable as a business, as well.”
Lackey was initially hired as a day health care worker at Metcalfe Gardens after having been a nurse at a local hospital.
“They really painted the picture to me, as a nurse coming out of a hospital, that these would be well, elderly people who travel to Florida during the winter,” said Lackey. “Twenty-five years later we saw a much different picture.”
Although Metcalfe Gardens is not a long-term care facility, governed by the Ministry of Health, it does house people with memory issues while providing services such as medication administration and physical care assistance.
“Four or five suites we have dedicated to respite care. So then you’re doing even a little bit more work, but there’s still a level of what we go to with each person safety-wise, because we’re not staffed like a long-term care facility or hospital.”
Metcalfe Gardens residents are generally 78 to 98 years old, with an average age of 87- up from 84 when it began 25 years ago. Most of its patients are from the St. Thomas area, while a small proportion of patients come from surrounding rural areas.
To accommodate the varying age range and needs of its patients, Metcalfe Gardens offers a flexible model that allows those who only require specific services to create their own personalized plans.
“Through the years, we’ve always offered a couple of different levels,” said Lackey. “We provide what we call our ‘independent service’ and then we provide what we call our ‘full service.’ The difference is, the full service basically includes everything and the independent is probably less of the personal or nursing nature.”
Acting as an intermediary, Metcalfe Gardens also integrates the plans of patients with Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), and other agencies in the city to ensure that they are eligible for, and have access to, professional services from the community. This creates a level of connection to the surrounding city that mimics the experience of living in a house or apartment.
Despite the fact that the company’s work ethic has remained the same throughout the years, the ever-changing technology in the field has required it to adapt to the evolving landscape in order to continue to provide a high level of service.
“We are giving that same level of effort but technology has made that a little higher. When you talk about services you think of meals, you think of housekeeping services, laundry services, and nursing services. Nursing services are probably the biggest place that we’ve increased. We were always kind of assisting with the personal care but it’s gone much further; this becomes their home.”
On top of technological advancements, the industry continues to change because of the recent government requirement of licensing retirements homes. Before this new mandate, the Ontario Retirement Communities Association (ORCA) was a voluntary organization that helped homes provide a quality level of service. Now, the ORCA acts as an educator to assist retirement homes in meeting the mandatory government standards of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Agency (RHRA).
“In the past, ORCA was a voluntary thing; they helped us educate and they came in and they did our inspections to make sure that we met certain standards,” said Lackey. “The RHRA is mandatory, so those people that weren’t following standards now have to, which I love.”
When asked about what sets Metcalfe Gardens apart from the other two existing retirement homes in St. Thomas – one of which is attached to a long-term care facility and the other a smaller home converted from an old school that doesn’t offer services – Lackey responded quickly.
“Even though we’re 25, 26 years old, we look like an apartment building,” she said. “For a senior who’s having trouble leaving home to begin with, in their mind they think, ‘I’m not going, it’s an institution.’ So when they walk in the door and see our beautiful lounges on every floor, all kinds of recreation areas, a nice front lobby, it seems more like a hotel idea.”
Surrounded by beautiful gardens, a gazebo area and plenty of recreational options including a chapel, library, physiotherapy room, and games room, Metcalfe Gardens makes an effort to break free of the traditional retirement home image. It also owns a 16-passenger bus for outings and utilizes a sprinkler system throughout the property to ensure quality maintenance.
“We’ve got a corporation behind us that has really solid standards, and we know those standards and we know that they support us,” she said. “Everybody believes the same things: customer service is your number one priority.”
With various renovations over the past few years and numerous awards through the Natural Quality Institute for their Continuous Quality Improvement program, Lackey is confident that Metcalfe Gardens will continue to deliver services based upon its strong core values.
“At any retirement home you will see levels of care. You know some residents may need more help than others and others are very independent, but it’s all done so that nobody is singled out. We’re a huge family here and I think it’s about dignity.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Metcalfe Gardens
WHAT: Ontario retirement home that focuses on comfort and quality
WHERE: St. Thomas, Ontario
WEBSITE: Metcalfe Gardens