Lyle's Blog

Nursing Homes

Friday, December 24, 2010

One day, many of us might end up in one. When we can no longer take care of ourselves and it becomes a burden for our children to. So, with something so important, why is there no rating systems in place for one like their is for a good restaurant....or a good motel? After a recent visit to two of our local more veteran options, I am left with the hope that my children will put deep thought into which one that I am left at if I am not able to take care of myself in my later years.

Zin, Red, and I went to visit a couple of the Band of Brothers who have been recently placed in such homes by the VA for various reasons. Harmony House and Pilot Butte. We all came away with similar thoughts afterwards so I went online to see if either one had ratings. What I found was interesting. Their seemed to be two types of ratings. One was like you would find a mortgage company online. That is really not a rating but an ability for a particular home to grab you before another one......in other words, a money thing. The other seemed to be a rating based upon either a health inspection or a formula based upon how many staff their was to how many people interned.

One cannot find ratings based upon how well the customer is treated. I know that it is important that the nursing aspect is there but of equal or even more important, is how well the customer is treated and how friendly or how loving is the staff.

If you were looking at that health rating, Pilot Butte was given four stars to Harmony House's three. But, it was in the other aspect that I saw the seemingly huge difference.

Both of them lacked for creature comforts. A sterile, hospital like atmosphere in the rooms with cheap bedding on the beds and small TVs. At least in Harmony, each bed had one but I wondered how that went if their were two guys in a room with hearing problems. Would the man with the loudest TV win? In Pilot Butte, their seemed to be a very small TV in each room.

The huge difference that I witnessed from our visit was the difference in staff and atmosphere. We walked into Harmony House first. The first thing we noticed was staff interacting with people along with families visiting their loved ones. We were greeted by a very friendly female voice who quickly realized who we were from our Band of Brothers jackets.

"Hi!", she greeted us with a smile, "He is just to the left down three doors and is waiting for you guys. We heard you were going to come by and visit with him." I looked around and saw staff members with smiles on their faces interacting with seniors, family, and other staff members. They seemed to be happy which in turn flows down to make the families and seniors happier.

We were chatting with our friend, Len, when a very pretty lady walked in the door. "Who is our new resident?", she cooed. Now, I swear I heard Red say that he wished he was so I piped up, saying, "Here he is" as I pointed to Red, "And the nurse says that he is suppose to be in bed, but we cannot get him to go there.". With a smile on her face, she began to talk with Red who quickly informed her that he was not the patient to the laughs of Len, Red, and myself.

The lady turned out to be the event coordinator for the house and it certainly looked like they had picked the right person. She seemed to glow with friendliness. As we left, I took an even more in depth look around wondering what it was like for the seniors there. How happy were they? This is the end of their life. How well are we treating them? If my visuals were right, this home seemed to be right up on the hospitality line.

So, then we went to Pilot Butte. Now, they are the one that has the higher health rating and based upon that, would be one that many would chose first.

So, I made it a point to look for the other things. We were greeted by what seemed to be the director who made his office by the door as a sort of sentry. There was no smiling face and we were not allowed to pass without him checking to see if our friend, Dale, was actually in his room. He directed one of his staff to lead us to the room and as I walked to Dale's room, I looked around. The staff seemed to be in business first mode. Nurses seemed to be buzzing around doing their job but there was a very large difference in the hospitality angle. I saw few smiling faces . I saw nurses working hard doing their job but very little interaction. I saw seniors sitting in their rooms staring at walls.

Now, there is no doubt in my mind that the Pilot Butte center was doing the best nursing part of the job. But, in my humble opinion, Harmony House was far better in the well being aspect. And is that not of equal or more importance?

Maybe someone needs to set up a site for senior homes where someone goes out to the various ones and rates them for the important things. Comfort, cheeriness, friendliness, and mind interactions.

And equally important, when we make these hard decisions for our loved ones, those things should be in the forefront of our decisions.

This holiday season, take the time to visit one of these seniors who are in one of the various homes in our community. Make it a point to make that time a merry happy time. Remember, you might be there yourself one day.

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