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Ensuring the Elderly Live an Enjoyable and Fulfilling Life

Within Tokio Marine Group, Tokio Marine Nichido Samuel, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tokio Marine Holdings, operates 11 for-profit homes for the elderly with nursing care provided under the Hyldemoer and Hütte brands in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Nagano and Kyoto.

Q What kind of business does Tokio Marine Nichido Samuel operate?

Taeko Matsushita
Executive Officer,
Tokio Marine Nichido Samuel
Manager, Hyldemoer Tama-plaza Village III

Since opening our first home in Tama-plaza (Kanagawa Prefecture) in December 2000 based on the concept of providing a "home" rather than a "facility" so that elderly persons can live in true comfort and with peace-of-mind, we now operate 11 homes for the elderly with nursing care provided under the Hyldemoer and Hütte brands. In order to ensure that our elderly residents live an enjoyable and fulfilling life in their old age, we put emphasis on dementia and terminal nursing care services from the beginning and deliver high-quality nursing care services. There are currently around 70 residents ranging in age from 65 to 100 years old at Hyldemoer Tama-plaza Village III, where I work, or around 200 residents if we combine residents from the adjacent Village I and II.

One feature of our homes is that there is no eviction clause in the agreement signed by the residents. While, in general, other homes commonly have the right to cancel an agreement if dementia or other symptoms worsen, making communal living difficult, or if the person has been absent for a long period due to hospitalization, our company does not have such a clause in the agreement. That's because we believe we already have an adequate system for nursing care and other requirements thanks to our highly skilled staff.

Q Is it true that you modeled the homes on nursing care facilities in Northern Europe?

The Hørgärden home for the elderly in Copenhagen, Denmark, was selected as a model in terms of services. I was really surprised when I visited the facility for the first time as a member of the observation team in 1998. Residents can eat whenever they want and go out wherever they want. There is no curfew either. There was a free and open atmosphere where people spend time as if it were their own home, even the elderly and persons with disabilities. There were major differences with Japanese nursing care facilities at the time, where residents lived based on a set schedule and rules, ate set meals and went to bed at a set time.

I was most impressed at how cheerful the residents were. Nobody appeared concerned about the future. There, it was natural for people to freely choose the way they live, even those in their later years or with disabilities. If you think about it, it would be strange not to be able to make such decisions on your own just because you're older even though you've spent your whole life doing so. Getting old is a natural part of life. People should be able to live the way they want in old age as well.

Although there were some concerns about how closely we could mirror Danish services in Japan, where the systems and culture differ, it strengthened our conviction to provide a "home" in which elderly persons can live an enjoyable life with peace-of-mind even if they require nursing care.

Q Is there anything you pay particular attention to in providing daily food?

One of the first things on a person's mind when he or she moves into a home is the food. With this in mind, we switched from an outside contractor to a directly managed kitchen in 2011. Having our own cooking department enables us to provide more finely tuned service. As an example, meals are divided into seven categories and we provide the most appropriate food in accordance with the individual's ability to swallow to ensure that each person takes pleasure in eating at all times. We have also developed original nursing meals known as Moer Dish 3 for residents who can only eat chopped food.

The meals look and taste virtually the same as normal meals yet the food is soft enough to be crushed by the tongue and swallowed. Our aim is to make sure that even persons with weak chewing or swallowing abilities can eat with peace-of-mind.

Moer Dish 3 was developed with the feelings of the residents foremost in mind. One resident being looked after by a certain staff member was a real food connoisseur but could only eat chopped food and had a decreased appetite. The staff member in charge shed a tear when explaining that the resident had to use a spoon to eat in spite of still being able to use chopsticks and wondered if this was the most appropriate meal available. This episode signaled the start of the development of Moer Dish 3.

Q What areas are you focusing on in staff education?

At our company, staff known as contact persons accompany the residents. Contact persons are extremely well informed in a number of areas, from the interests and food preferences to the life stage of the residents, and make effective use of this information in providing services that enable each resident to live comfortably.
In addition, since the physical condition of residents is constantly changing, we train our staff to think about what can be done for the person in light of circumstances at the time so that even better service can be provided. It gives me great pleasure as well when a resident or a family member tells one of the staff how much they appreciate our service.

We provide a wide variety of training, not just on-the-job training (OJT). Based on a structured educational program, we conduct training for new employees (twice for a total of five days), rank-based training based on years of service and position, as well as skills improvement training to enhance expertise (three days), among others. We also provide overseas training every year as well, in which we select employees to work for a time in a nursing care facility in Denmark. It is difficult to realize comprehensive and heartfelt nursing care if all staff members don't share the same values. That's why we created a "brand book" summarizing our philosophies and concepts that is given to each employee by the president when they join the company. The booklet is there so people can return to our origins when they have a concern or are unsure of what to do.

Q Finally, can you give us your thoughts on the operation of the homes?
Some residents have even told us that choosing to live in a for-profit home for the elderly with nursing care provided is the last purchase they will ever make. We are fully aware that these people have selected us and all staff members share the same philosophy of wanting to provide the most appropriate living for people in their later years.