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Management Strategies to Support Religious-Based Communities

CASE STUDY: Dooley Center, Atchison, Kansas Business Opportunity: Senior Living Management Strategies to Support Faith-Based Communities

Managing a religious retirement community presents unique challenges. Senior living industry rules may conflict with the practices, values, and goals of a religious senior living community. It’s important that your senior living management partner understands and respects those values when developing solutions that satisfy industry requirements. It’s equally important that a religious senior living community remain flexible so a balance can be found between their spiritual practices and regulatory compliance. By approaching challenges creatively, solutions can be found that not only meet, but exceed expectations

Business Profile

The Dooley Center opened in 1971 as the on-site skilled nursing center at Mount St. Scholastica, a monastery for the Benedictine Sisters, located in Atchison, Kansas.

The not-for-profit religious organization and Catholic community was founded in 1863 and is currently home to more than 120 women. Owned and operated by Mount St. Scholastica, the 44-bed Dooley Center provides around-the-clock nursing care to monastery elders. They have partnered with Life Care Services since 2001.

Elderly woman walking outside with her caregiver at a senior living community

Business Situation

The Benedictine Sisters are devoted to a communal life of prayer, work, and hospitality. They believe in a frugal lifestyle for themselves in order to serve the needs of others through various ministries. The Dooley Center is Medicaid-certified and relies on reimbursement dollars to help defray operating costs. Outside of Medicaid funding, all operating costs are paid for by Mount St. Scholastica.

True to its religious roots, the skilled nursing community is devoted to a monastic lifestyle. The culture includes spiritual practices and routines that at times conflicted with state regulations, which caused surveyors to cite the community with deficiencies.

Religious practices include Meatless Mondays, prayer schedules outside of “normal” business hours, and silence in the community during holy weeks and other certain times of the year.

“We’re a home for retired nuns, we have a monastic lifestyle, and we have to respect that monastic lifestyle. But we also have to respect state regulations to get our funding. And sometimes religion and government don’t really mix.”

Renee Porter, Dooley Center Administrator

The Dooley Center has several objectives:

  • Maintain their monastic culture and lifestyle
  • Maintain its state license and regulatory compliance
  • Preserve operating costs, find efficiencies and savings opportunities
  • Maximize Medicaid reimbursement funding
  • Provide the highest-quality, resident- centric care and fulfill the mission: the care of the sick ranks above all else

“In managing a religious retirement community, we have to be good listeners to understand the unique values of each religious organization, and what’s important to support their operational and cultural goals. Our role is to find that balance with rules in a highly regulated industry, and how to adapt and help them implement important procedures to achieve their goals,” Corporate Operations Director for Life Care Services.

Elderly woman posing and smiling with her caregiver

Business Solutions & Positive Outcomes

Working with Mount St. Scholastica and the staff and leadership at the Dooley Center, Life Care Services joined best-in-class senior living management services with the tradition and mission of the faith-based community.

Culture, Compliance, and Care


  • Hired a full-time administrator, who serves on staff at the Dooley Center
  • Invited state surveyors and regional compliance directors to the Dooley Center to learn about monastic lifestyle practices, and to build understanding and accordance with regulations
  • Developed alternative protein options for dining menus 7 days a week, to meet government guidelines and adhere to the monastic lifestyle
  • Developed a system and procedures for communication during times of silence to satisfy the monastic lifestyle and government guidelines
  • Assisted with necessary licensing and compliance for various regulations and new CMS requirements
  • Implemented best practice clinical protocols and resident-centered care initiatives


  • Current 5-Star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Maintains average occupancy of 5%
  • Zero deficiencies in 10 of the last 15 years under Life Care Services management
  • PEAK awards for excellence in 2006
  • PEAK 2.0 award for sustaining person-centered care in 2015
  • PEAK award for outstanding mentorship in 2016
  • “Excellence in Action” award for resident satisfaction from National Research Corporation for 2014-2015 and 2016, ranking Dooley Center in top 10 percent nationally
  • US News & World Report “America’s Best Nursing Homes”2010, 2016-2017
    elderly woman reading a book inside her library at her senior living community

Operations Solutions and Positive Outcomes

  • Identified a strategic cost-saving opportunity with a new Kansas state policy in With census consistently averaging 90 percent at the Dooley Center, decertifying two beds to go from 46 to 44 allowed them to be classified as a smaller community. This move allowed a bed tax reduction and cost savings of approximately $190,000 annually.
  • Implemented group purchasing programs for food and other products, as well as payroll assistance to help provide a 10 percent cost savings for operations

Personnel Solutions and Positive Outcomes

  • Provided human resources consulting, developed new employee handbook, and revised practices to help both employee turnover and retention rates outperform industry averages
  • Implemented safety training and procedures that have received recognition from LeadingAge Kansas, as well as new safety measures reducing workers comp claims
“Senior living communities come in all shapes and sizes, and each can have their own unique culture and values. Like the Dooley Center, we deeply respect those and take pride in Life Care Services’ versatility and depth of resources to help religious-based communities achieve their goals.”

Life Care Services, Corporate Operations Director

When religious-based communities partner with Life Care Services, you’ll have a whole team of professionals helping your community achieve its goals. To learn more about how your senior living community can benefit from Life Care Services management, call 515-875-4755 or visit us at https://www.senior-living-management.com/. Where Experience Is Everything.