When I was growing up, we used to visit my grandparents regularly. On one visit, my NaNa, as we called her, asked if we'd like a cup of tea. She brought out the kettle, and it was just lukewarm water. It was on that day that my mom decided they were moving in with us. She converted a patio into a studio apartment so they'd have at least some privacy in a house full of kids, dogs, cats, parakeets, a guinea pig and even a myna bird my Dad taught to curse. My mother had her hands full raising five holy terrors, but adding her own parents to her burden made her more at ease. She was an R.N, too, so my grandparents got excellent care in their final years. That was then. These days, it's nearly impossible for many families to care for themselves, let alone their aging parents. Their only option is a nursing home. I doubt many families seriously consider Gracedale.
Let's say you have the unenviable task of finding a nursing home for a loved one. There are 18 nursing homes within a 10-mile radius of Nazareth. Only one of them has a one-star rating, and it's Gracedale.
Nursing homes are rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid from one to five stars, based on a review of health inspections, staffing and the quality of resident care. A rating of one star means that the nursing home is "much below average." Gracedale has this rating primarily because it is failing to meet what Executive Lamont McClure has often called a "moral obligation" to care for our elderly. Itys rating for staffing and quality of resident care are at just one star.
Early in McClure's first term, Gracedale had climbed to three stars ("average.") At the time, McClure said he was aiming for a five-star rating. “Gracedale is striving to meet our moral obligation of taking care of those who can no longer care for themselves while balancing the interests of the taxpayers who pay the bills ... .” he said at the time.
This is an unmitigated failure, and McClure owns it.
On Election Eve, there was a political rally outside the home, complaining about conditions. Although I covered this event, I was skeptical of many of the claims because most of them came from disgruntled ex-employees and an Executive candidate.
The election's over. Since then, I now know that the state Department of Health recently visited Gracedale and made this finding:
Based on a review of nursing time schedules and staff interview, it was determined that the facility failed to provide a minimum of 2.7 hours of direct care for each resident for 13 of 21 days reviewed.
A review of nursing time schedules from October 3, 2021 through October 23, 2021, revealed that the facility failed to provide a minimum of 2.7 hours of direct care for each resident on October 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 19, 21, and 23, 2021, for a total of 13 days out of 21 days reviewed, In an interview on October 24, 2021, at 1:30 p.m., the Administrator stated that the facility did not meet the minimum of 2.7 hours of direct care for each resident on the aforementioned days.
Administrator Jennifer Stewart King has conceded that staffing levels are below the minimum state standards, but has told County Council this measure is based on a full census of 688. She said she expected the nursing home to have higher levels of nursing care per resident once the reduced census is recognized.
What she represent to Council appears to be untrue. Actually, that's untrue. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the poor staffing is based on a census of 512.
While the County has made an effort to hire more people, it could do much more. It could seek help from county workers who might be willing to put in a few hours at Gracedale to supplement their meager wages. It could pay people more. And McClure needs to reconsider whether he made the right choice when he replaced an outside administrator so he could save a few bucks.
County Council has set aside money for several studies. Gracedale should be at the top of the list.