Community staples Wood Manor and Autumn Wood Nursing Homes, at 2700 and 2800 N Hickory, are under new management.

The facilities were purchased by Emerald Health Care on November 1 and have been renamed to Emerald Care Center Claremore (ECCC) and Memory Care Center at Emerald (Memory).

Emerald Staff led a tour of the facility and spoke about the changes they were making to make the ECCC and Memory an ideal place to spend one’s golden years.

Seana Warren, the clinical liaison, is responsible for reaching out to the community and hospitals and informing them of the benefits of Emerald Care. Admissions Director Derek Keene brings residents and families into the facility. And Executive Director Dwayne Hill oversees the departments, knows all of the residents, is on call 24/7 and maintains an open door policy with all staff and residents.

“We’re going to do some amazing stuff here,” Hill said, speaking of plans for Emerald Care to be an asset to Claremore, not only as it’s third largest employer, but also as it’s premier nursing home.

Both ECCC and Memory provide a number of services, including: long-term care; end-of-life care; rehabilitative care following an illness, fall or surgery; and temporary respite care to give full-time caretakers a break.

All of the residents get medication management to ensure they are taking the proper doses at proper times.

They track the residents’ weight and when they eat to make sure they are maintaining a healthy diet.

The entire facility is secured for patient safety, and amenities like a hair salon, exercise room, game room, and laundry are available on site.

Some kind of group activity is happening most hours of the day.

A bus and bus driver are included to transport residents to doctors appointments and dialysis treatments.

Meanwhile, full time social services directors insure that each resident’s case is managed appropriately, every step of the way, while they are staying at Emerald Care.

“We comprehensively take care of each individual in a way that it feels like a family environment,” Warren said.

Jokingly referencing an old cliché about nursing homes, Hill said, “Contrary to popular belief, we don’t beat them and starve them, we actually love them.”

“This industry has good actors and bad actors, but we strive to be one of the best actors in health care,” Hill said. “We don’t warehouse human beings when they come to the end of their golden years. This is where they come to live.”

Memory, the Alzheimer's and dementia facility, is one of two in the state with a specialized Oklahoma Department of Health license for caring for people with memory issues.

“Other people have Alzheimer's and memory care facilities, but they aren’t licensed,” Warren said. “Other people can operate without that license, but it just means that we went through the proper channels, became licensed for it, and trained our whole staff.”

The license recognizes that all Emerald Care employees have received special training to handle the unique needs of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Not just the nursing staff, but those in food service, rehabilitation, housekeeping, marketing and management are taught how to recognize when patients are experiencing confusion or combativeness and help calm them and reestablish their routine.

This training, called In Service, is repeated and mandatory every couple of weeks to keep the whole staff up to date.

“When people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia fall or get sick, they get sent to the hospital and they don’t know who they are or why they are there. It’s scary,” Warren said. “To get them out of that hospital and into a skilled nursing facility like this, as quickly as possible, is paramount.”

With 5.7 million people in the US diagnosed with Alzheimer's, skilled memory care is a necessity.

The memory care unit has five wings, with 12 individual rooms on each wing.

Each wing has its own commons area that residents congregate in a living room watch reruns of favorite tv shows.

The commons room is also a place where residents can work out with a nurse and play games that help with their dexterity and motor function.

Somewhat surprisingly, playing with baby dolls and folding laundry are popular pastimes, because of their familiarity and practice at fine motor skills.

The kitchen and dining areas in each wing are equipped with enough seating for the residents and their family members, who are encouraged to visit as often as possible.

“This is a more home-like environment,” she said. “Having the same faces eat together and live together, it’s less confusing and it’s a good routine to have.”

Warren said the wings of the memory facility strike a balance between giving the residents enough neighbors and activities to keep them entertained and engaged without overwhelming them with too many people and too much overstimulation.

The individual rooms are spacious, with personal accessible restrooms and walk in or roll in showers.

“You see the size of it. It’s like someone’s apartment,” Keene said.

The memory care unit is primarily for those 55 and above, but they can make special accommodations.

In the regular facility, there are 129 beds in semi-private rooms with curtain dividers. There is a secure wing for women only. The remainder of the wings are co-ed.

Warren bragged on the housekeeping staff for keeping the facilities immaculate.

“One of the things we always get feedback on is the smell,” Keene said. “There isn’t one. The feedback I get all the time from people who are looking to see where they want to put their mom and dad is how clean it smells.”

Hill, Keene and Warren agreed that they would put their own parents in Emerald Care facilities.

“We don’t over medicate, put them in their rooms, and hope they don’t disturb the nursing staff 24 hours a day,” Keene said. “Our aim is to mentally and physically stimulate our residents until they are no longer here. That is important. That is probably the most important thing their can be in care.”

They said out of 115 current residents, they had 115 different personalities. 115 unique people with different needs, each of whom would receive personalized care.

“I know a lot of nursing homes say this, but you get to know everybody like they were your own grandma or grandpa,” Warren said, saying the staff is impacted each time someone leaves their facility to go home or passes away. “It’s hard on the staff because we get to love them. We can say it’s our mission to help everybody who comes here … but you don’t do this job unless you have a passion.”

Hill agreed.

“The people we have here are committed to being here,” Hill said. “In this field, we could do anything, we could make more money and work less stressful hours, but this is what we choose to do. It’s not a job, it’s a passion.”

Warren worked at the facility before Emerald Care took over, and said that in her experience, all the changes have been for the better.

So far they have begun allowing people select rooms and decorate them before surgeries so they’ll have a comfortable space ready when they arrive and has hired full-time, on site rehabilitation professionals caring for and working with residents, certified wound care equipment and nurses, and payment planning for those who need longer stays than their insurance will allow.

Emerald Care Center is working on expanding the number of insurance carriers they can accept, updating their website to be more interactive, improving their feedback system from temporary patients and reviewing the information they collect.

Families of potential residents have been alarmed by the name change, but they shouldn’t be, Keene said.

“It’s still the same as it used to be, apart from, it’s better,” Keene said. “The changes that we’ve had in the years I’ve been here … every change has been better in some way, shape, or form.”

Since Emerald acquired facilities in Oklahoma City and Midwest City, they have been named 5 star nursing homes.

That is their goal for the two facilities in Claremore, as well.