The physical impact of living with ALS presents multiple challenges for those diagnosed and their families as the disease progresses. With the help of innovative technologies, some facilities around the country are finding creative ways to do whatever it takes to make ALS a livable disease.
One such facility is the Leonard Florence Center for Living, a skilled and rehabilitative nursing facility located in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Part of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, the center provides state-of-the-art technologies to provide the best quality of life possible for people living with ALS in a unique, home-like environment.
We recently spoke with Barry Berman, CEO of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, to learn more about their operation. Barry initially had a goal to build something radically different, a skilled nursing facility that felt more like a real home, instead of a traditional nursing home environment. “The Leonard Florence Center for Living is the nation’s first urban model Green House®,” he said. “It is a skilled nursing facility that has ten individual ‘houses.’ It’s taking the traditional nursing home model we’re all accustomed to and it really flips it upside down and turns it into an extremely residential model of care.”
In 2007, as Barry worked to bring his vision to life, he attended a symposium to learn more about ALS. There he met Steve Saling, a landscape architect by trade, who had been diagnosed with ALS in 2006 at the age of 38. “He was there learning about what housing options would be available to him once his disease progressed,” said Barry. “From there, an incredible friendship was born. Steve worked on the residence he knew he was going to live in. We named it the Steve Saling ALS Residence for Steve.”
Realizing most of what ALS takes away, technology can give back, Steve got to work designing the ALS residence which includes state-of-the-art technology that controls nearly everything so residents can live as independently as possible. They can open and close their blinds and doors, control their lighting, room temperature, home theatre and more. They can even control the elevators to access other parts of the building and living areas throughout.
The Steve Saling ALS residence includes ten bedrooms surrounding common areas including a living room, dining room and kitchen, where residents can gather and socialize, eat together in a family type setting, and enjoy the amenities while having the ability to maintain their own privacy when they want to. The facility also provides social activities, outdoor areas to enjoy, a deli, a spa, hairdressers and more, all offered under the care of an experienced skilled nursing staff who understand the needs and requirements to care for someone living with ALS.
A challenge for most skilled nursing facilities is providing the ability to care for a patient on a ventilator due to the increased expense of not just the equipment, but the trained staff who are able to manage it. Barry learned how to successfully provide this capability in the ALS residence and recognized the need to do more, as the original residence was only able to house ten people living with ALS at any given time. Barry’s passion to help people living with ALS led him and his team to open additional beds in the Stein Family Center for Well Being to expand their capacity to care for people requiring this type of critical care.
Today there are 35 people living at the Leonard Florence Center for Living, ten of which are living permanently on ventilators. Barry says if he had it his way and the ability to do more, he would do it without hesitation as he and his team are determined to do whatever it takes to provide stronger, longer, independent lives for people living with ALS.
Follow our blog to learn more about people doing whatever it takes for people living with ALS.
Special thanks to Barry Berman and the team at the Leonard Florence Center for Living for allowing us to share their inspiring story. Thank you for all you do for the ALS community.