More than 1,000 older Johnstonians live in extended-care facilities, and according to a report by the county’s elder-care watchdog, most are satisfied.
Jimmy Parker is president of the Johnston County Nursing Home/Adult Care Home Community Advisory Board, and he presented the group’s annual report to county commissioners at their March meeting.
“The majority of people in long-term care express satisfaction with their situations,” Parker said.
Parker said the 25 nursing homes and adult-care facilities in the county care for 1,200 residents. The majority live in nursing homes or assisted-living places, while 78 live in family-care homes, which have six or fewer residents. Parker said 14 percent of residents are in special-care facilities for dementia. He said his group conducted 72 visits to facilities last year, logging 7,000 miles along the way.
Earlier this year, the state’s Division of Health Service Regulation shut down one nursing home, Autumn Winds on N.C. 210 near Smithfield. The facility had a history of violations, with the state finally closing it because of poor conditions, including inoperable or hard-to-open windows, broken exit signs and plumbing problems. Parker suggested it was time for the place to close.
“It was one of the oldest adult-care facilities in the county,” he said. “Autumn Wind was actually shut down due to a number of environmental issues. It was an old, dilapidated facility.”
While that one closed, Parker said, four new family-care homes opened, which he said his group is always happy to see because of the small nature of such facilities. A couple of older facilities closed on their own, which Parker called troubling, as newer facilities are typically more expensive.
“The closing of some of our older facilities has resulted in a loss of some of what I call ‘affordable capacity,’ ” Parker said. “Some of these facilities would take residents who could not afford to pay the higher prices of some of the high-end units. So we’ve lost some of that capacity.”
Through the advisory board’s visits, Parker said his group saw a number of things potentially diminishing quality of life for residents.
“We do see a number of rather common weaknesses,” he said. “There are relatively few activities for residents. There’s a lack of variety of those activities, and the facilities with special-care residents, the activities are not specifically designed for that class of resident.”
Parker recommended facilities improve their food, saying that it’s one of the most common complaints from residents. He said residents also complained about activity options, incompatible roommates and slow responses to complaints.
“The dining experience could be better,” Parker said. “That’s one of the few pleasures folks have when they live in a facility. From our perspective, the dining experience should be made more homelike, more rewarding. Residents should be encouraged to eat in their dining room rather than in their rooms.”
He also noted that some facilities have dealt with bed-bug infestations in recent years, a previously rare problem in Johnston County.
“It’s cropped up in the county in recent years and hopefully that won’t be an issue for too many more,” Parker said.
Nursing-home jobs are difficult, and Parker said he sees high turnover, particularly with administrators, which he said is especially problematic.
“It’s disturbing to some extent, because having an administrator in place for a longer period of time allows for a better relationship with families and residents,” he said.
In terms of bright spots, Parker said he’s seen a number of upgrades to facilities and some converting to rehabilitation centers rather than catering to long-term care. He said churches and civic groups offer entertainment and company, and a couple of community members have started collecting oldies music and DVDs of classic films to distribute to facilities.
Drew Jackson; 919-603-4943; @jdrewjackson