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Adult care home ratings vary widely

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Sunday, August 18, 2019

When it comes time to find an elder care facility for a loved one, people in the Twin Counties are often overwhelmed and confused at the terminology and find it difficult to assess the ability of these homes to provide the needed level of care for residents.

“Most people, when you say ‘nursing homes,’ think you mean all elder care facilities, but that is not the case,” said Ashley Winstead, senior services supervisor for Nash County. “Nursing home facilities refer to ones offering skilled nursing. But you also have adult care facilities which are more like independent homes or assisted living facilities.”

Nash County has only four skilled nursing facilities that provide long-term care for residents needing a higher level of care. The four facilities currently available are Autumn Care in Nashville, and three other facilities located in Rocky Mount: Hunter Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Rocky Mount Rehabilitation Center on South Winstead Road and South Village Nursing Center, which recently moved to 3322 Village Road under a new name — the Lodge at Rocky Mount.

But the nursing home facilities at these locations vary widely in the way they are rated. Autumn Care and South Village come highly rated by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, receiving four out of five possible stars in the organization’s star rating system. Hunter Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Rocky Mount Rehabilitation Center both earned a dismal one star out of five in the latest ratings.

Edgecombe County only has three nursing home facilities that offer this higher level of care. The Fountains at the Albemarle have the highest rating, earning four stars and the Edgecombe Health and Rehab Center earned an average three star rating on its last assessment. However, the Prodigy Transitional Rehab facility only earned one star, marking it as a facility that is “much below average” according to the CMS ratings.

Tyronda Whitaker, the lead regional ombudsman for a five-county area that includes Nash and Edgecombe counties, works for the Area Agency on Aging under the Upper Coastal Plains Council of Government. She said nursing homes are rated at the federal level on a number of quality measures and are based on surveys and inspections.

“I usually direct people to look at the CMS ratings as one way to find out more information about a nursing home,” Whitaker said.

These ratings can be found by going to https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html.

There are more adult care facilities in the Twin Counties, some of which are larger and house more than 100 residents, and some that are smaller facilities housing six residents or less. These facilities also are awarded star ratings, but these ratings come from the state and are based on earning a maximum of four stars instead of five.

“These star ratings are assigned as the result of inspections or surveys by the state Department of Health and Human Services,” Winstead said.

There are currently 14 adult care facilities listed in Nash County. Of these, six have achieved four-star ratings with the highest ratings going to Spring Arbor of Rocky Mount, Brekenridge Retirement Center in Rocky Mount and Trinity Retirement Villas in Nashville. One facility, Hunter Hill Senior Living at 891 Noell Lane, earned zero stars on recent assessments because of multiple code and care violations.

Edgecombe County currently has eight adult care facilities listed, none earning four stars. Fountain Adult Care Home in Tarboro and A Child’s Hope Family Care Home in Rocky Mount have the highest ratings while Heritage Care of Rocky Mount has the lowest rating of open facilities. The Open Fields Assisted Living Facility earned zero stars on its last assessment and has since closed down after a rape and a murder occurred there as was reported last week.

“Finding facilities is one of the most overwhelming decisions for a caregiver and coming to that decision is very, very hard, but knowing where to turn and which facilities are the right ones will help,” Winstead said. “We can help people know where to access this information about the facilities, so they know which ones are treated better and which ones have zero stars.”

Winstead said she can assist people at the Nash County Senior Center and help them find a facility that best meets their needs.

“Not everybody knows about this information or where to go online to find this information. I think it is important information for everyone to know,” Winstead said.

State star ratings for adult care facilities are available at https://info.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr/acls/star/search.asp

But Whitaker cautions that star ratings should not be the only tools used to assess nursing home or adult care facilities for family members. She said her office can also help people sort out what they need to know when choosing a facility.

“You really need to tour these facilities and look at what is happening there. Are the facilities clean and odor-free? Are the residents clean and odor-free? Do staff members greet you when you come to the facility? Do they treat the residents there with concern and respect? Do the menu listings and activities match what is actually being offered to residents?” Whitaker said.

It is important to judge a facility based on observation and not just ratings, she said. Some facilities are wrapped up in pretty packages, but residents are not treated as respectively as they should be. In other cases, low-rated facilities may have made major changes or have been placed under new management since their last survey and may offer a viable alternative to families.

“No matter what the star rating is, there is no substitute for visiting the facility,” Whitaker said.

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