Community should demand better care at nursing home

Published 8:43 am Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Guest Column
by Linda Daughtrey Simmons

I read with interest and anguish your article (“Nursing home under fire,” Sept. 26) regarding Courtland Health & Rehabilitation Center.

I will not mince words to cover an issue that needs attention — ASAP. I have rightful knowledge firsthand what a properly managed health care facility means to patients and their families — and to the volunteers who so freely give their time and care and love to those who need it most.

Any excellent manager knows that willing, motivated workers perform the best. Any excellent manager also knows that when the motivated workers have the admiration and support of those they are working for, they perform even better.

It is blatant that suddenly management of this facility is definitely creating huge problems, which are having a negative impact on the facility, the employees, the volunteers, the community, and most importantly, the patients.

This is called conflict, which must be resolved. If so many are so unhappy and dissatisfied, there is without a doubt a problem that is the duty of the corporate office to investigate, listen to others and initiate corrective actions.

Smart remarks to patients, employees, volunteers and visitors are totally out of order. Firing of nurses who question directives which may compromise integrity or the health of patients should be investigated by corporate.

Also, I did check — it is not any one person’s facility as many have been told; it is owned and operated by Medical Facilities of America, whose phone number is 540-989-3618.

I must say I do know some of those terminated, and knew them before and when I had both my parents there, both at one time, and they were wonderful management and staff with full attention to detail in a personal, caring manner.

I observed their performance at no given time of day or night, more than once per day every day, on unannounced visits. I was always greeted and treated in a caring but professional manner, and my parents were given the best of attention.

My daddy and mother looked upon many of them as extended family. My parents did not go to a nursing home to be put away and forgotten, but because we could not give nor provide the total and best care at home my father needed, and because my mother could not physically live alone and wanted most of all to be with my daddy.

The administration at this facility allowed my parents to be together and still allowed me to share life with them as closely as I could from two miles away without feeling total remorse at the thoughts of them being there, but only because management and staff and volunteers were truly interested in the welfare of the patients.

However, and most importantly, I must add that not every patient in a nursing home has the love and affection and immediate family care close at hand as my parents did, and in fact, many don’t have anyone at all who checks on them routinely. It is then that the volunteers, who are truly jewels of care giving, become the important crucial link in the life of the nursing home patient.

The volunteers such as Juanita Sydnor, Eddie Bulls and others so frequently seen at Courtland Health & Rehabilitation for as long as I can remember, are as important as life blood itself in keeping these patients from being in a world where day-to-day living becomes day-to-day existing.

They totally change the quality of life from the inside out. I have seen the patients go from sad to glad in an instant when these folks came around, and my parents did so as well. It was something they looked forward to and so very much appreciated.

To me, it is selfish and uncaring to not allow it, and we all, as a caring community, should demand better for the people who live there. As said before — not everyone there has immediate family who checks in day in and day out, and these volunteers cross the lines and become their family.

And while Juanita’s decorations would take a prize anywhere, she unselfishly chose to decorate and light up the world of those whose lives were dim in a health care facility. The administration has now snuffed out the light and we need to know why.

My daddy passed away in June 2007 at Courtland Health & Rehab. Some 60-plus days later, Mom became so sick she had to leave and be admitted to the hospital, never to return, but for over two weeks, all she did was tell me she wanted to go back to Courtland and see her nurse Juanita and her friend Mrs. Whitney and the others. In fact, I had to dial her phone to Courtland Health & Rehab and let her talk to them. Two weeks after that, she passed away, three years ago today. It is with sadness that I reminisce, but also remember how important these people were to her at this time in her life.

If the administration has nothing to hide, it should not mind publicly responding to the inquiry.