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When a facility needs to be fixed up

June 4, 2012
by Kathleen Mears
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In 1996 I thought I moved into a bright, cheery nursing home. Though the wallpaper was busy, it was in my favorite colors of pink and green. However, while riding around the facility I noticed the wallpaper and furnishings showed the wear of an eight-year-old facility. The wallpaper had tears and the near the hallway to the break room the wall was stained a brownish yellow from cigarette smoke.

Though the wallpaper was attractive, I wondered why they would use such wall coverings in areas where there would be constant wear. I also thought they might have used painted walls or different wall coverings would stand up to that wear. 

In the first few years I was there, corporate came many times, discussed wall and floor coverings with staff and some residents. Later, vendors came and measured, but we got no new wall or floor coverings.

By 1999 the rooms needed some fixing up. So housekeeping/maintenance began to paint them white. Staff purchased inexpensive wallpaper border and put it up themselves. 

Though some borders looked garish, we residents appreciated their efforts. The paint and borders brightened up the rooms and the staff was proud of their efforts. 

As the years passed room and common area air conditioning units froze up frequently during the hottest summer months. Some room units were replaced piecemeal and some summers one or two larger units had to be replaced. 

When the air conditioners were repaired, they did not function well afterwards.

When the dining rooms’ vertical blinds and valances became too worn they were taken down. That left the floor to ceiling windows uncovered. All year round residents complained about the sun blinding them. During summer the sun's rays brought in oppressive heat. Aides taped towels and blankets to the windows to block the sunlight. 

When the facility was sold, we heard the new owner had great plans for it. A small movie theater and possibly an ice cream parlor were planned. Necessary repairs were done first. A new roof, some room air conditioner/heaters were replaced, but not all. Worn walls and ceilings were also replaced. 

Many repairs were cosmetic. When they were completed, the facility looked like a motel with muted wallpaper with leaves and dark, patterned carpeting.

I hoped maintenance and repairs would be handled differently. But they continued if to be done inexpensively or not at all, and residents and staff dealt with the consequences. The faces of staff were reddened from the summer heat. Residents froze in the shower room in the winter when the heater burned out.

Some nearby facilities built during the ’50s and ’60s were demolished and new, grandiose facilities with some amenities that I felt were unnecessary, rose in their place. 

With the Medicare/Medicaid cutbacks to facilities today, I wonder how facilities built from the ’70s through the ’90s will be maintained. I wonder too how the grand looking nursing homes built in the last 10 years will hold up.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...