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Faith-based Retirement Communities: Maintaining Cultural Values While Following Industry Rules and Regulations

By Terri Moore, Corporate Operations Director for Life Care Services and Renee Porter, Dooley Center Administrator

Maintaining your faith while following industry rules and regulations can be challenging. For example, refraining from serving meat on Mondays may uphold your religious beliefs, but can result in a deficiency from state survey inspectors. Or holding prayer schedules outside of “normal” business hours and silence during holy weeks can be seen as a deficiency as well, but supports the religious values you may observe in your community.

How do you overcome these? Senior living organizations rooted in faith must remain flexible and agile to deliver an extraordinary culture, award-winning quality of care, and excellent resident satisfaction, all while ensuring monastic lifestyle practices are upheld. And it’s important your management partner understand these as well.

Follow the 6 tips below from a community managed by Life Care Services called the Dooley Center, an on-site skilled nursing center at Mount St. Scholastica, a monastery for the Benedictine Sisters, located in Atchison, Kansas.

To read their entire story, download this case study.


✓ Listen

It’s imperative your management team takes the time up front to fully understand your religious organization’s cultural values and traditions, and how those translate to lifestyle practices at your faith-based senior living community. A top objective for a management partner should be to help a community maintain tradition and achieve its mission.

✓ Seek Balance

Separation of church and state is a familiar phrase. While the two sides don’t always mix, a management partner’s role is to find balance between a community’s cultural values and government regulations. Compliance is imperative for faith-based communities to obtain (or maintain) state licensure, comply with regulations, and to receive Medicare and/or Medicaid funding. Many faith-based communities rely on reimbursement dollars to help defray operating costs. Ensure your management partner helps you minimize cultural changes while maximizing Medicare/Medicaid funding.

✓ Educate and Build Understanding

Be proactive and invite state surveyors and compliance officials to your community to help them understand your religious organization’s values and to build accordance with their regulations. Read the case study to see how the Dooley Center accomplished this.

✓ Develop New Processes and Procedures

New processes must respect religious values and traditions, yet satisfy government rules and regulations. At the Dooley Center, a policy for “necessary” communication was developed when it involved medical professionals, and “not necessary” communication in other circumstances for periods of silence during holy weeks and other times of the year. Read the case study to learn how the community also maintained its monastic tradition of Meatless Mondays while meeting industry dietary guidelines.

✓ Implement Best Practices and Systems

Religious organizations and staff are dedicated to their various ministries and causes they serve. It can be challenging to keep up with changes to industry regulations, new CMS requirements, the latest clinical procedures, and operations systems to position your community for the greatest success. A management partner’s role is to provide on-site support, expertise, and guidance for leadership. It’s important they work with staff to provide training and continuing education opportunities, as well as clinical protocols to achieve the highest possible ratings for quality, resident-centered care. The higher your CMS rating, the greater Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement dollars are available.

✓ Identify Cost-efficiency Opportunities

Like other faith-based communities, the Dooley Center and its residents are devoted to a life of prayer, work, and serving the needs of others through various ministries. They believe in a frugal lifestyle for themselves, so finding operating efficiencies and preserving costs is a top objective. A management partner’s role is to help identify efficiencies through various cost-saving opportunities. Read the case study for a recent measure the Dooley Center took that saved them approximately $190,000 annually, as well as other long-term cost-saving strategies.


Positive Outcomes

At Life Care Services, we understand senior living communities come in all shapes and sizes, with varying religious values and cultural beliefs. We deeply respect these differences and take pride in our versatility and depth of resources to help faith-based communities achieve their goals. Today, the Dooley Center is currently 5-Star rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and maintains an average occupancy of 95.5%. Click here to learn more about the successes achieved at the Dooley Center, and to see how you can benefit from Life Care Services management.

Read what others have to say about working with Life Care Services, or contact us to start the conversation.


About Terri Moore

Terri Moore serves as the executive director/corporate operations director for Dooley Center in Atchison, Kansas, and Kingswood Senior Living in Kansas City, Missouri. She has over 34 years of experience in the senior housing industry working with both start-up and operational communities. Terri has successfully led communities in CARF/CCAC accreditation, long-range planning, and master planning efforts. She has been extensively involved in the culture change initiatives in long-term care with a previous community, receiving the State of Kansas PEAK Award from Governor Kathleen Sebelius in 2008 for promoting excellent alternatives in Kansas nursing facilities. She attended the University of Georgia, School of Pharmacy, and has a degree in health services administration from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. Terri is a licensed administrator in Kansas, Arizona and Florida, a Fellow in the American College of Health Care Administrators, and currently serves as treasurer for the Kansas chapter of the College.

About Renee Porter 

Renee Porter serves as the administrator for Dooley Center in Atchison, Kansas. She has over 10 years of experience in long-term care administration, working in both for-profit and not-for-profit communities. Renee has successfully led Dooley Center through the PEAK 2.0 process in Kansas, earning the recognition for sustaining person-centered care (2015) and outstanding mentorship (2016). She is recognized as a leader in Kansas culture change initiatives, and travels to other Kansas nursing facilities to assist them in advancing their own person-centered care initiatives. Renee attended the University of Kansas and has a degree in applied behavioral science.  She is a licensed administrator in Kansas.