Last month we gathered in Long Beach for the 35th Annual Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo and what a tremendous success it was – with incredible buzz and high energy, compelling keynotes, conference sessions, networking and much more! I kicked off our event sharing some of my personal history with the Symposium and also how it has impacted my family. I thought I would use this space this month to share what I told the audience, with our entire Symposium community as I know not all of you were there in Long Beach.
1998 was the first time I became aware of the Symposium on Healthcare Design (our former name), and I was early in my career producing events, so I wasn’t always focused on the purpose of each event, but the Symposium was different. As the daughter of an engineer, I certainly could appreciate the impact of design on the experiences in spaces.
One year later the Symposium was to take place in Boca Raton, Florida in September but Hurricane Floyd had other ideas. We rescheduled the event three months later in Orlando and for the very first time I learned how to cancel and relaunch an event; skills I didn’t really need again until 2020. Back in 1999, I went to the Symposium and was asked to lead one of the tours and we went to Celebration Health. Like all of you know, it’s great to talk about healing environments and how design impacts them but there is nothing like seeing it in person. Meanwhile, back home my family was moving my grandmother with Alzheimer’s to a nursing home so when I got home and first visited her, I saw the good and bad about where she was now living. My family thought I was crazy when I said the nursing station was in the wrong location.
Jumping ahead to this past winter, I was once again faced with a family member with Alzheimer’s needing to be placed in a facility. This time it was my mother and I have been her primary caregiver so the responsibility of picking the right place was on my shoulders. I armed myself with everything I knew about Alzheimer’s and almost 20 years of my career solely focused on the Symposium. All the hospitals and healthcare facilities across this country I have spent time in, all the sessions I have programmed, all the conversations I have had with all of you. I felt bad for the folks I was meeting with because they were fully prepared to talk to a daughter looking for some place for their mother, which was a situation they had seen far too many times, but a daughter whose work focuses on healthcare design that was a whole other level of critique.
I visited five facilities and narrowed it down the best two. I will just tell you about one that didn’t make the cut. I met with the woman for over an hour and was really impressed with their programs and philosophies. We walk into the memory care area, and I notice the residents’ apartments are all down a hallway with zero line of sight to the common areas. As we walk down this endless hall where all the doors look the same there are handwritten signs on the walls telling ‘John Smith your room is this way’. And I thought bad design negates all the best intentions in the world. In the end we were fortunate enough to select a facility super close to my home with some very good design aspects.
What I wanted to say to all of you is thank you for the pushing and questioning and changing you’ve done in the past 20 years to make the place I put my Mom so much better than the one my grandmother was in, which was really my Mom’s biggest fear.
Vice President, Symposium Director
Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo