Judson Park, Des Moines, WA — Overview

Judson Park : An American Baptist Homes of the West (ABHOW) community

Judson Park is an American Baptist Homes of the West (ABHOW) community. It is gloriously located on Puget Sound in Des Moines, Washington. Washington, not Iowa. It’s between Seattle and Tacoma in the SeaTac metroplex.

Across the Sound from Judson Park, you can see the peaks of the Olympic Range. Look the other direction and Mount Rainier towers. The core property dates to 1963. It has seen many additions and enhancements since, including a recently added peaked roof.  The new roof profile better sheds the Pacific Northwest rains. The peaked roof also updates the look with a more stately presence. Improvements abound inside as well for the 209 total units community with 330 residents. Judson Park grew and changed as greater Seattle changed around it. The surrounding neighborhoods are now older homes compared to Redmond or Sammamish’s McMansions.  Des Moines is now more working middle-class as the new money is in the newer suburbs. Still Judson Park’s proven reputation now draws from the entire Greater Seattle region.

Baptist missionaries founded Judson Park as an independent or stand-alone community. Judson Park joined American Baptist Homes of the West in the 1980s for increased expert depth. We like ABHOW’s slogan, “A pioneering leader in senior care.” It captures the American western frontier culture and the importance of senior care leadership.

JP LOGO CHOICE colorJudson Park grew the continuum of care over time. They added more living options, rehabilitation services and most recently memory or dementia care. Judson Park is partnered with a regional Accountable Care Organization (ACO). As an ACO partner, Judson Park  integrates senior healthcare and services delivery. Judson Park’s rehabilitation expertise attracted the ACO partnership with CHI Franciscan Health. St. Joseph Hospital of Tacoma, CHI Franciscan is a regional integrated health system. St. Joseph is a member of the larger Catholic Health Initiatives group.  St. Joseph leads the regional ACO. More on this in our interview discussion.

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (Continuing Care Accreditation Commission CARF-CCAC) accredits CCRCs. Fewer than twenty percent (20%) of CCRCs secure accreditation nationwide. Judson Park is one of the few. (Don’t you just love all the long noun strings and acronyms? See our glossary to help understand the alphabet soup of terms in senior living.) CARF-CCAC accreditation is process focused and not financial. It doesn’t answer every consumer concern. But in health care, good processes improve health outcomes.

We like to see communities with a track record of successful adaption and growth over time. Just as with investments you have to consider the “risk” of living a long time. Nothing stays the same forever. Community leadership and management must respond proactively to changes. These include changes in prospective residents’ needs, workforces, competitors, and opportunities like technology. The best CCRCs become proven institutional leaders that survive, evolve and thrive. It’s like tempering steel. They prove their strength and navigate the rocks of change. That describes Judson Park.

Judson Park OverviewWe had a group conversation with three staff and two residents:

Ken Ray, fitness coordinator. Ken works both on campus and off. He has more than eight years tenure at Judson Park. Staff longevity and stability is always a healthy sign. There’s even some interesting research that happy staff is positively correlated with happy residents. We always pay attention to high staff turnover versus high stability. This was a good first sign. Ken’s a member of their Masterpiece Living Champion team, the leadership group and is working on his MBA. (See more about Ken in our article Community Wellness with Mission — Beyond the Gates.)

Nikole Jay, executive director. Nikole came to Judson Park four and a half years ago.  She has extensive industry experience with thirteen years at another CCRC community. She started on the front lines in recreation and moved up the ranks. Nikole related her inspiration to become more expert at senior care and successful aging. The cause? She saw some bad examples along the way. The mistakes seemed avoidable. She knew that there had to be a way to make successful aging more systematic and repeatable. Residents and their families expect excellence all the time. And not just some of the time by luck of the draw. That’s what she’s studied and what Nikole finds in Masterpiece Living. Dan’s experience in entrepreneurial leadership confirms the value of the “what not to dos.” To do lists are common. But you don’t need to repeat every mistake in the book. You can learn from the common mistakes along the learning curve.

Marilyn Smith is a self-described perennial resident. We loved that description. We have a strong preference for perennials over annual flowers. The perennials anchor the garden. They just keep coming back year after year. Marilyn is the beneficiary of the Masterpiece Living culture. She recognizes the value of the accumulated wisdom and lessons. She wants her off-campus friends to benefit from the lessons as well.

Sally Wold is another resident. Sally emphasized her enthusiasm for community engagement. She has a large family in the area demanding her time. There’s so much to do and experience at Judson Park. Her schedule between the two is if anything overfull. Sally related turning ninety this year and her choice to celebrate aging. Sally’s joyful demeanor and energy reflect the “Live Long” philosophy behind Masterpiece Living. We liked her emphasis on choosing her attitude towards aging. That choice is a mark of successful aging and happiness.

Natalie Wilcox McCann, resident services director. Natalie trumped Nikole and Ken with twenty years experience at Judson Park. She started in the industry right out of college as a case manager for a guardian service. Before Judson Park, she saw the importance of trusted service providers and elder advocacy. We mentioned the value of staff stability and tenure. We also like to see management with experiences from other communities or roles. Diverse experience resists the, “We’ve always done it that way,” trap. Natalie’s examples highlighted the viewpoint of her residents — the voice of the customer. Count us impressed. Family members judge communities based on their sense of trusting the care. They want communities that prioritize the interests of mom or dad. Convenience of staff as an organizing principle is a warning sign.  As family, we know staff and communities need to make money. But we want to make sure the focus stays on results for our family member and value for the money. Natalie showed us her priorities right away. Her words matched examples of principles in practice that lent credibility.

We like to meet with both staff and residents when interacting with a community. The Judson Park panel told a remarkably seamless story. Judson Park is an established community. It’s inspired by mission. Staff and residents seek to lead successful change. The goal is successful aging both for residents and the larger Des Moines community. To meet the goal, Judson Park seeks out best practices. Masterpiece Living is an example. For more read the Judson Park series.