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Where do they go from here?
Tower Hill nursing home's closing leaves families scrambling to find alternatives
Canton Journal - 1/6/2018
Kindred Health Care is shuttering its Tower Hill nursing home location, but where the residents of the Canton nursing home will end up is still uncertain.
The medical service company announced that it would close five of its nursing home locations in Massachusetts, as part of a nationwide effort to divest itself from the skilled nursing facility business, according to the State House News Service. Kindred officials expect this divestiture to increase cash flow by an estimated $20 million to $30 million.
Kindred expects to close the state's facilities by mid to late March, decreasing the state's already shrinking stock of nursing homes. In testimony to the Department of Public Health on Dec. 27, union 1199SEIU Vice President of Long-term Care Herbert Jean-Baptiste said that since 2000, more than 200 nursing homes have closed, reducing the number of homes in the state by more than a third.
Kindred did not directly respond to request for comment, instead sending out a press release attributed to Kindred's Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications Susan Moss. The release promised to "work closely with Kindred to properly move the residents to new locations in accordance with all State regulations."
"We are committed to personally working with each of our residents and their families through every phase of this transition," the release read. "We have assured all residents and their family members that we are committed to continuing to provide high quality care and services to our residents. Throughout this process we will be taking steps to assure the continuity of our caregivers so that residents experience as little disruption to their lives as possible."
It did not respond to follow-up requests for comment, regarding how many residents Tower Hill has, nor how long the transition to new facilities will take.
State Executive Office of Elder Affairs spokesperson Thomas Lyons said in an email that situations like this can be "disruptive" to the residents, and affect relationships they've built with both staff and other residents over the course of their lives at the facilities. But he also noted that "nursing home utilization continues to decrease as options available to help people meet their long-term care needs in the community have increased."
Canton Council on Aging Outreach Worker Robin Tobin echoed this, adding that there are also special resources for veterans to "age in place," and, for "folks that can afford it, there are different levels of care" at assisted living facilities in town, such as Orchard Cove or Cornerstone.
While she wasn't exactly sure why nursing home living is on the decline, Tobin said she believes that a combination of resources for seniors to stay in their own homes, combined with seniors' desire to live out their lives at home, plays a role. Staying put isn't possible for all seniors, though.
"There are seniors who are really frail, don't have the family members, or the finances and will be placed in state-aid care," Tobin said.
According to the Genworth 2017 Cost of Care Survey, the median cost of a private room in a Massachusetts nursing home is $149,650 annually. Although Kindred also did not respond to request for comment regarding full or partial reimbursement for the families who house loved ones at the facility, Lyons said that Kindred has offered to cover residents' moving expenses, and that "[t]here are also specific protections in state law for residents that pay privately."
Families shouldn't just be thinking in terms of dollar signs, though. Providing emotional support for their loved ones is important, Lyons said, and pointed to the state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, to which families may turn for assistance.
Tobin said the town's Senior Center not only provides assistance, but also programs, games, and groups, to give seniors social opportunities, which she said are vital.
"In our seniors the rates of depression totally skyrocket when there's limited socialization, and [we see] cognitive decline, as well," Tobin said.
The council also offers five-day-per-week transportation services for seniors, as well as grocery trips twice a week, which can be another source of socialization, Tobin said.
She also said HESSCO Elder Services, with which the council closely works, provides a range of services, such as meals on wheels and social programs, as well as information and assistance for both seniors and caregivers.