Heritage House of Paris

Heritage House of Paris

Does your skilled nursing facility pass the smell test? Not just what the nose senses when walking through the door, but can the atmosphere be backed by critical care components necessary for a long-term medical care living facility?

Donna Gordon and Cary Scott, both with Heritage House of Paris, said one of the key things to look for, besides recommendations from friends and family, is to go to Medicare.gov and look at the rating of the facility.

“It will give you the scores of each facility,” business administrator Scott said. “It’s on a five-star scale, and, obviously, the higher the better.”

Terminology should get more attention than it does, Scott said.

“No one wants to go to the ‘nursing home,’” he said, adding a skilled nursing facility is more accurate for the care provided.

Gordon, the administrator at Heritage House, said the entire concept of “nursing home” has changed.

“Nursing homes of today are not the nursing homes of 40 years ago,” she said. “Now you have to meet certain criteria. They don’t really smell anymore. It’s more of home or hotel-like atmosphere.”

Gordon said medicare.gov scores are based off of surveys and quality measures through Medicare, and they look at everything from staffing to infection rates to overall cleanliness.

“It’s not like a popularity contest,” she said. “It’s based on actual performance. We have guidelines that are chronicles-long that we have to follow.”

She said another key component of choosing a nursing facility is word of mouth.

“Then you do get into some of the popularity,” Gordon said.

She also recommends visiting different facilities.

“Go and actually lay eyes on the facility and ask questions,” she said.

Assistance with living

Say the family member doesn’t need skilled nursing care but still needs some form of care.

Kim Rhein, facilities manager for Pine Tree Assisted Living, said the difference between a skilled nursing facility and an assisted living facility is the level of care.

“A nursing home, they have to require skilled care, nurse on duty all the time, a physician is available to them at all times,” Rhein said. “In assisted living, it’s not particularly nursing care or skilled care. We do have a nurse on staff, and she sees them once a week, but it’s not a constant. We cover what we call ADL, or activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, oral care, that sort of thing. In a nursing home, they are more towards the medical side.”

She said sometimes family members can’t live at home alone, even though they don’t need a nurse.

“To me, assisted living is a vital part of your society, because we are offering a service that families can’t do themselves,” Rhein said. “Not necessarily because they don’t want to, but it’s just not an option for everybody, so having that option there is a blessing.”

She said when looking for a facility, to look at care over environment.

“You want to ask many questions,” Rhein said. “You want to ask about staff, staff turnover, longevity of employees, because that’s going to show you the dedication of the employees to that facility. Also, I think it’s important to know the longevity of the residents you have. We have several that have been with us for a while, and that says a lot about the care they receive.”

She said it’s important as well to get into the nitty-gritty of the facility’s policy, like if it allows smoking or not, is it wheelchair accessible and what medications are the nurses on staff allowed to give.

“It needs to be less focused on financial and more focused on the quality of care,” Rhein said. “I teach my girls we do the job we do to ensure quality and not quantity. If they’re with us five days or five years, we need to make sure that’s the best five days or five years of their lives.”

She said overall, the facility can’t just be about care, but also caring.

“Your heart has to be in this job,” she said. “Assisted living is not easy. It’s not for everybody, so, personally, I feel it’s a very selfless act for someone to say, ‘here’s my mother, here’s my father, help them.’ You are recognizing there are needs you can’t meet, and you are helping them get that opportunity somewhere else.”

Kim Cox is the city editor for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6965 or at kim.cox@theparisnews.com.

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