The OPTIMA Awards were created to give national recognition to innovative, outcome-oriented staff teamwork in long-term care facilities—teamwork that contributes to optimum function and well being of residents. The OPTIMA Awards are open to all nursing homes and assisted living facilities nationwide.
The OPTIMA Awards competition began in 1996. For years, Long-Term Living has aimed at facilitating the flow of “how-to” information from experts to nursing home and assisted living staffs. In the course of meeting and talking with managers and professionals around the country, it became apparent that many local facilities were developing strategies and programs to improve care and provide better services to their residents. And many were doing so without recognition. Why not, we thought, find a way to reward these people and pass along their successes for other facilities to learn from? This was the core idea behind the OPTIMA Awards, as jointly conceived and developed by the staff of Long-Term Living and myself.
We decided to cast the net very broadly. In effect, all activities, programs and strategies submitted for OPTIMA Award consideration needed to: (1) respond to the desires and preferences of residents and their families and (2) have been proven successful in contributing significantly to improved resident function and well-being.
We called this resident-focused care and services. But why call the award “OPTIMA”? As it happened, the name was a perfect fit. Optimum function is perhaps the primary purpose of long-term care (as opposed to the main objective of most healthcare, which is curing disease). The term also embodies the concept of optimum performance by caregiving staff, leading to optimum quality of care. Finally, considering the difficulties involved in long-term care, this might be the optimum caregiving experience in healthcare.
The OPTIMA statuette itself is designed to convey that feeling—caregivers enthusiastically raising their arms in the air, shouting, “We did it!”
What OPTIMA Rewards and Reinforces
To do well in the OPTIMA competition, a program has to go beyond common industry practice in approach or technique. We look for strategies in providing care or services that can serve as a model for other facilities nationwide. OPTIMA is also results-oriented, a basic requirement being that a program or strategy has to have been implemented long enough to demonstrate its effectiveness. Applicants have to document with data or graphics how well the program succeeded.
Most of all, the OPTIMA Awards honor teamwork. The OPTIMA Award is presented to the entire staff team. Past winners have included the caregiving staffs and programs of:
- 2012 St. Leonard Franciscan Living Community, Centerville, Ohio -- Alzheimer's Therapy Program
- 2011 Villa Crest Nursing and Retirement Center of Manchester, New Hampshire — CHOICES
- 2010 Mather Pavilion of Evanston, Illinois — LEAP (Learn, Empower, Achieve, Produce)
- 2009 Rolling Fields of Conneautville, Pennsylvania — 24-Hour Dining
- 2008 Palm Garden of Ocala, Florida — “Empower with Choice”
- 2007 Ballard Healthcare of Des Plaines, Illinois — Passage to Discovery
- 2006 Glen Cove Center of Glen Cove, New York — Tying the Hardest Knot: Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Hospitality
- 2006 Lancaster Health Group of Chicago, Illinois — C.H.O.I.C.E. (Choosing How Our Individualized Care Evolves)
- 2006 Silvercrest Center of Briarwood, New York — Upgrading Respiratory Services
- 2005 Life Care Center of Sarasota, Florida — “Butterflies are Free”
- 2004 Kings Harbor Multicare Center of Bronx, New York — Falls Prevention
- 2003 Glen Cove Center of Glen Cove, New York — “Creating a Five-Star Dining Experience”
- 2002 Bortz Health Care of Traverse City, Michigan — The Safety Program
- 2001 Glengariff Health Care Center of Glen Cove, New York — On-Site Dialysis Treatment Center
- 2000 Kings Harbor Multicare Center of Bronx, New York — Transportation Links to Improved Quality of Life
Whether they are part of the management team, professional or caregiving staffs, housekeeping or food services, staff members are the ones who make life in a facility worth living. Their successes deserve recognition in their community and by the whole industry.
In short, our message to nursing homes and assisted living facilities is: If you’ve got it, we want to make sure you know it—and then we want to tell the world about it.
Glen Duncan cocreated the OPTIMA Awards during his 15-year tenure as director of communications for The Beverly Foundation, an independent, nonprofit educational organization focusing on long-term care. He continues to coordinate the Awards submission and judging processes.