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Behind the List with Sue Drabic of Morningstar Senior Living Inc. - Moravian Hall Square of Nazareth'Talented and committed employees'

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As the population continues to grow and Americans live longer, the demand for special services and accommodations is on the rise.

Throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities providing a multitude of services for the elderly.

Here to answer this week's “Behind the List” questions is Sue Drabic of Morningstar Senior Living Inc. – Moravian Hall Square of Nazareth.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Morningstar Senior Living been operating in the Greater Lehigh Valley and what are its primary services?

Sue Drabic: Morningstar Senior Living opened Moravian Hall Square in 1988 as the first continuing care retirement community in Northampton County. Moravian Hall Square opened as a not-for-profit organization, and, I am proud to say, that 27 years later we are still a not-for-profit organization.

As a life care community, we provide residences for seniors to enjoy an active lifestyle in retirement, while providing accommodations for them when their needs change over time. A life care plan provides residents with a lifelong insurance component that is part of their residency plan.

In addition to independent residences, we also provide personal care accommodations, including secure accommodations for anyone who has a dementia/Alzheimer's diagnosis in our Galilee House. Our organization has been awarded the Excellence in Dementia Care certification from the Alzheimer's Foundation of America for the specialized care we provide to people with Alzheimer's or dementia.

The hallmark of Moravian Hall Square is the extraordinary quality of health care services provided to residents. We provide short- or long-term skilled nursing care in our health and wellness center, which is consistently awarded a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and named to the U.S. News and World Report Best Nursing Homes in the state of Pennsylvania.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest hardships and opportunities that Morningstar Senior Living Inc. has encountered throughout its years in business?

Drabic: Some of our biggest challenges or hardships involve recruiting and hiring qualified staff who meet our standards. It takes very talented and committed employees to work passionately and tirelessly with older adults whose health is compromised and declining.

Likewise, the regulatory environment for continuing care communities such as ours with several levels of care governed by the Department of Health, Department of Public Welfare, the Insurance Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid can be very complex and requires constant vigilance and attention to detail.

We consider ourselves very fortunate in that we have a progressive-minded board of directors that has been willing to pursue many opportunities in order to enhance and expand the programs and services we provide for residents, employees and our local community at large which we also are committed to serve.

Entering into an agreement with St. Luke's Physician Group to build and operate a family practice on our Moravian Hall Square campus; building and opening a state-of-the-art 25-bed new home-like building to serve seniors diagnosed with memory loss caused by dementia; and purchasing senior solutions home care and care management in Allentown and expanding it to a second location in Palmer Township are just three examples of our expanded services to better meet the needs of older adults in this area.

LVB: With laws in health care perpetually changing, what strategies does Morningstar Senior Living implement to keep up with the change and provide … services to its clientele?

Drabic: First and foremost, our leadership team takes both short-term and long-term strategic planning very seriously. Annually, we update and adapt our strategic focus areas, strategic directions, success indicators and action plans to address the changing needs of our clientele as well as the changing health care environment in which we must operate.

Morningstar Senior Living invests considerable time and money for renovations and improvements to the physical environments on its campuses. No question that how we treat our clientele is most important, but we are also judged by the quality of our real estate. It's critically important that we maintain high-quality facilities to attract new residents and keep those we currently serve feeling proud of where they live.

We also make it a point to be very involved in both our state and national trade associations (Leading Age National and Leading Age Pennsylvania) in order to remain on the cutting edge of trends and technology which impact the senior housing and health care industries.

LVB: How does Morningstar Senior Living directly stimulate the local economy?

Drabic: Although Morningstar Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, we still pay full local, county and school taxes. Our real estate taxes totaled approximately $570,000 in the last year.

In addition, we provide employment to 376 full-time, part-time or seasonal, which translates to $12 million in payroll being added to our regional economy. Most of our staff live in the Lehigh Valley, and, as consumers, they frequent local businesses here in Nazareth.

Over 320 residents deposit and invest their personal funds in local banks and purchase goods and services in local businesses, including hospitals and medical practices. In addition, our organization spends over $1 million annually just on food, and purchases fresh items as much as possible from local vendors.

LVB: What does the future look like for Morningstar Senior Living?

Drabic: Thanks to a very forward-thinking board of directors and some very involved and committed residents, families and employees, our future as a growing organization is bright and filled with many opportunities.

We are in the midst of pre-selling the cottages and townhomes to be built on our newest campus in Upper Nazareth Township called Heritage Village. Designed as a “traditional neighborhood development” on 50 acres, Heritage Village will provide a state-of-the-art environment in which older adults can literally age in place.

With meals, housekeeping and maintenance all provided either as part of one's contract or provided on a fee for service basis along with home care services, Heritage Village residents will be able to “age in place” in their homes until such time as either temporary or permanent assisted care or nursing home care is needed.

And when it is needed, Morningstar Senior Living will provide those residents with priority access to its award-winning five-star nursing care facility or to its personal care/assisted living facilities, including our unique memory-care household.

We are also exploring no less than three other initiatives which will position our organization to literally own and operate just about every type of service that older adults will need in order to remain independent, in their own homes for as long as possible – which, by the way, is what every senior adult desires.

We want to enable seniors to stay in their own homes if they so desire or, if they wish to move into either of our campuses – Moravian Hall Square or Heritage Village – we feel very privileged to be able to make that happen for over 300 active older adults.

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Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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