Bethea Retirement Home completes $22 million expansion
By Samantha Lyles
Bethea Retirement Home of Darlington welcomed guests to a preview of their new “household style” expansion last week, complete with a ribbon- cutting ceremony to formally celebrate finishing this ambitious $22 million project. “We broke ground in August of 2019, and this is a 55,000- square-foot expansion,” said Benjamin Spurling, executive director of Bethea Retirement Home. “The bulk of the project is a replacement skilled nursing facility for our existing campus. We went with a household design, which is a really neat and innovative concept unlike anything in this area.” The project also includes a new inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation center and a primary care office. All future residents of this facility, whether they’re in for a brief stay to rehab from injury or illness or staying a bit longer to recuperate with full-time nursing care, will enjoy conveniences designed to make them feel at home. “The household design is unique. … It’s specifically designed to mimic what we experience at home, so instead of a large medical modeled skilled nursing facility, we have broken it up into four individual households with 22 private bedrooms. All the bedrooms are private, and each household has their own living room, dining room, outdoor courtyard space, front porch and back porch, like individual houses,” said Spurling. Each of the four household units has its own dining room where patients can dine when they like, rather than eating on someone else’s schedule. A short-order cook will be on duty from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites. “We eat when we’re hungry, so why shouldn’t residents be able to eat when they’re hungry? So there are no set mealtimes,” said Spurling. Patients will also have use of a modern, open gym facility featuring cardio equipment, free weights, and machines specifically designed to help strengthen compensatory muscles for balance and stability. This gym area also includes laundry machines and a kitchen for those who wish to handle some of their own chores. While each unit has a spacious shower large enough to accommodate seating, those with extra mobility challenges can utilize a special bathing area with motorized seating designed to make ablutions easy and comfortable. With all of these features, Bethea’s new facility is also notable for what it won’t have. “We’ve take everything out of these household units that we wouldn’t normally have at home, but that you would typically see in a skilled nursing environment, like medication carts, housekeeping carts, office spaces – all those things that we don’t have at home, we won’t have in these households,” said Spurling. Instead of the hustle and bustle of a hospital, with medical staff buzzing around and alarms and lights going off at all hours, the Bethea household units will offer more low-key ambiance, with a nursing hub centering each branch. Patients in need of assistance can page staff, and these calls will be routed to individual staff members rather than setting off a noisy, unsettling general alarm. “There are a lot of neat features built into the design that will allow us to deliver care and services in a more home-like fashion,” said Spurling. Though these new household units at Bethea Retirement Home are not currently open for patient use, they expect to clear a final DHEC inspection and open them up in January of 2021.