Interest in nursing home jumps

Interest in the Piatt County Nursing Home rose sharply in January, with inquiries from families interested in placing a family member there totaling 49 last month, well above the 19 registered for the same month in 2017.

That, along with the filling of two important staff openings, made the Feb. 1 county board nursing home committee one of its most upbeat sessions in months.

The facility has seen plenty of change since the October firing of director Gary Coulter, with Scott Porter promoted to the position two months later.

January inquiries into the facility also registered a large jump from the month before, when 15 showed interest, according to Nursing Home Admissions and Marketing Manager Lisa Buehnerkemper.

“I’ve been very busy,” she told committee members, adding there were 13 actual admissions in January, up from three in December.

Porter pegged the increase on three factors, two of which are seasonal: People who are considering long term care facilities usually wait until after the holidays; patients schedule more surgeries that need rehabilitation stays early in the year; and the addition of Buehnerkemper.

“We now have a full-time director of marketing and admissions, and she is able to coordinate with other providers more effectively,” he said.

The nursing home now has 80 residents, up slightly from the month before. Although rated at 100 beds, Porter said the more crowded census has made for some shuffling around to accommodate residents.

He said the shortfall is because, during times of lower occupancy, patients can obtain a private room for a discounted price. In addition, some rooms are set aside for patients who need isolation.

“We are also in the process of transitioning out of having three bedrooms on our nursing floor,” he added. “We have tried to keep the third bed empty in order to make this transition, in preparation for that change.”

Two thirds of the rooms at the nursing home have been remodeled as part of a three-phase renovation being funded by the nursing home foundation. Those projects have used mostly facility staff, so the third phase is on hold while staff perform improvements in the kitchen.

Two new hires
Andrea Frazelle was introduced as the facility’s new director of nursing. Frazelle served in that role for nine months in 2016 before needing surgery and subsequent rehabilitation.

She has 23 years of experience in nursing, and Porter said he is glad to have Frazelle back.

“She has a very, very strong background in long term care,” he said.

In addition, Richard Rogers has been hired as the new dietary director and will be on board Feb. 12. His background includes a recent stint at Monticello’s Villas of Hollybrook. Prior to that he was kitchen and dining manager at Hendrick House in Urbana. He also served as kitchen supervisor for a year at Challenge Unlimited in Rantoul.

Physician coverage
Porter said the “main challenge” for the nursing home in 2018 will be to increase the number of physicians willing to provide state-mandated coverage at the long-term care facility. With some recent resignations from doctors, just four currently make rounds at the nursing home, down from seven a year ago. One of the current four is ending that service in April.

Buehnerkemper and Porter have both been reaching out to other local physicians in an attempt to fill the void.

“We’re trying to see if we can accommodate any concerns they may have. From the feedback we’re getting, it’s hard for young doctors to get into geriatrics for some reason,” he said.

Porter hopes to get back up to at least five physicians.

“The number five is simply a goal for us as a facility in the short term to provide some relief to those doctors who have remained committed to providing service to those residents of the community who need long-term care services,” added Porter.

County Board Chairman Randy Keith asked if the new Decatur Memorial Hospital clinic in Monticello would be willing to help. Buehnerkemper said she had talked with them and will continue that dialogue.

In other action,

–Porter said the first meeting of the renewed family council went well, but that he will try to attract more people to the next session on Feb. 20.

“We’re doing this so that they (families) have a voice about how their nursing home is structured,” he said.

–the committee endorsed a vehicle maintenance proposal from Piatt County Transportation (PIATTRAN) that will allow for the nursing home mini-bus to get routine (non-warranty) maintenance locally instead of taking it out of town;

–the committee heard from Maple Point Assisted Living Director Kara Olson that she condensed the initial admission form from six pages down to one in order to make it more user friendly. Keith was appreciative, saying that the “mound of paperwork” needed before could be a “deterrent” to those considering the nursing home.

Categories (3):News, Living, People

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