October 21, 2016 | last updated October 21, 2016 4:37 pm
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Arbors uses technology, innovation to stay relevant in assisted-living sector

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
Paul and his brother Brian Liistro are co-managing partners of Manchester-based Arbors of Hop Brook, which runs continuing-care and skilled-nursing facilities in Connecticut.
PHOTO | Contributed
Caregivers at various Arbors facilities, which include the 126-bed Manchester Manor and 120-bed Vernon Manor.
PHOTO | Contributed
A patient at an Arbors facility.
PHOTO | Contributed
Nurses at an Arbors facility.

Arbors of Hop Brook LP

Headquarters: Manchester

Industry: Skilled nursing and continuing-care retirement

Year Founded: 1966

Founder: Helen Liistro and Paul G. Liistro

Generation Currently Running Company: Second

No. of Full-Time Employees: 226 (Including two partners)

No. of Part-Time Employees: 220

Family Members Currently Employed at Company: Paul T. Liistro, Managing Partner and Brian Liistro, Managing Partner (Brothers)

Company Websites: www.arborsct.com; www.manchestermanorct.com; www.vernonmanorct.com

When an Arbors of Hop Brook resident needs a ride to a dentist or doctor's appointment, they simply call an Arbors staff member, who arranges for an Uber driver to come get them.

Booking a ride with the popular driver-for-hire service requires some basic technological know-how — customers must first own a smartphone and then download an app to access and pay for the service online. But at the Arbors assisted-living facility, residents just hit autodial on a cell phone provided by the staff, and the transportation plans are taken care of, said Paul Liistro, co-owner and CEO of Arbors of Hop Brook LC.

"The technology of having Uber has given our residents extraordinary flexibility," said Liistro, adding residents seem to prefer the service to costlier taxis. "All of a sudden they are free to go wherever they want."

Uber is just one way the family-owned,, long-term care provider is leveraging technology to improve the lives of residents, whether it's at Arbors or at the company's two skilled-nursing homes, Manchester Manor and Vernon Manor.

From an electronic record-keeping system that keeps better track of patients' health, to a high-tech plasma airborne infection control system to reduce the spread of disease, to state-of-the-art medical equipment, the company has led Connecticut in introducing the latest in technology, Liistro said.

"Our skilled-nursing facilities are probably some of the most technologically sophisticated in the state," said Liistro, a second-generation owner who runs the company with his brother, Brian. "There are [nursing homes] that are using some of the things we have. No one is using all of the things we have."

Liistro's extended family has ties to Connecticut's long-term care industry dating back to the 1950s. His parents opened Manchester Manor in 1966 and Vernon Manor the following decade, in 1977. His mother's five siblings were all in the nursing-home business as well.

"At one point in time, had we been one company, we would have owned 20 percent of the nursing homes in Connecticut," Liistro said.

The family opened Arbors, also based in Manchester, in 1988, to provide a place for older residents who still wanted to be independent, but needed help with some everyday tasks. If an Arbors resident eventually needs more advanced medical care, they have access to Manchester Manor next door.

The company has a record of quality, with both Vernon and Manchester manors earning five-star ratings on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' website, a designation, according to Liistro, that is earned by only 20 percent of the nation's 15,000 nursing homes.

Billy Nelson, administrator for the 126-bed Manchester Manor, said he's worked at bigger corporate-owned nursing homes around the country, and none measure up to those run by the Liistro family. Nelson served as administrator of the 120-bed Vernon Manor from 2003-2007 and, after working at other nursing homes, returned to the company in Aug. 2015.

"I came back because I enjoyed working for a family-run business," said Nelson. "We don't wait for anything. If an air conditioning unit breaks, it's fixed tomorrow."

While the delivery of long-term care has changed dramatically since his family began in the business, Liistro said the company is changing with the times. In the last few years, a state and federal push to provide more care in home- and community-based settings has led to a string of nursing-home bankruptcies and closings.

Liistro said his company has weathered the storm by changing its business model to focus more on short-term care. The company recently completed $3.5 million in renovations at each of its skilled-nursing facilities, adding three new short-term rehabilitation wings with larger, modern rooms and new furniture, including $2,000 adjustable beds. It also added the latest in diagnostic equipment, such as new heart-monitoring machines, a bladder scanner and Doppler ultrasound.

The renovation also included additional private rooms in response to patient demand. If a patient requests a private room and all are full, the nursing home now puts patient names on an "upgrade list." Because of quick turnover in the rehabilitation wing, the company is usually able to accommodate the requests, Liistro said.

"I always describe what we do as a caring for people business," said Liistro. "You've got to have a passion for it because you're improving people's lives in a time of greatest need."

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