Another look at nursing homes

Area legislators and the co-chairman of the legislature’s Aging Committee say they’re open to looking at the state’s nursing home closure process to see if improvements can be made after learning of the spate of resident deaths following the closure of Blair Manor nursing home in Enfield.

Since a Hartford Superior Court judge ruled the home should close Nov. 8 following a six-month receivership process, 17 former residents of the home have died.

Several died within a few weeks of leaving the home — and in one case, within days — and family members, nurses, and an expert have said the stress of relocating from the home played a role.

Family members and Blair Manor nurses were outspoken about issues they had with the receivership process after going public with their feelings at an Enfield Town Council meeting in September.

Over the next several weeks, they described what they felt was an unfair and pre-determined process, arguing that the state’s court-appointed receiver, Phyllis A. Belmonte, didn’t do everything in her power to explore the viability of the facility. They said she did not seek facility purchase proposals prior to filing her viability report with the court, a responsibility of the receiver in a state statute pertaining to nursing home receiverships.

They also argued that the facility’s census — which Belmonte used to support her argument in her viability report — was manipulated through a combination of factors, both from the negative perception of the home during the receivership process, the perceived inevitability of a closure causing families to proactively move their loved ones to other facilities, and even suppression of new admissions.

They also said they felt locked out of the proceedings and left without an opportunity to have their voices heard, as they were not allowed to speak during the court proceedings, despite the state’s then-Long Term Care Ombudsman Nancy Shaffer telling them they would have an opportunity to do so. The town also had attempted to intervene on behalf of the Blair Manor residents, but its motion to intervene was denied by Hartford Superior Court Judge Constance Epstein.

Rep. Carol Hall, R-Enfield, in whose district Blair Manor sat, has said she’d like to meet with family members of Blair Manor residents and hear their suggestions about how the process might be improved. She has said she’d be willing to work on possible legislation for the long legislative session next year.

Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, recently called the string of deaths the “terrible consequences” of closing a nursing home like Blair Manor, and said the legislature “must examine ways to gradually transition nursing home residents to other locations so that this at-risk population of Connecticut residents is protected.”

Rep. Joseph Serra, D-Middletown, the House chairman of the Aging Committee, said recently that he’s been aware of Relocation Stress Syndrome, more commonly known as transfer trauma, over the course of his six terms as co-chairman of the committee.

“This issue has always been an issue in all the years I’ve been chair,” he said.

Serra pointed to safeguards that already are in place under the state receivership statute, like advance notice and discharge planning with residents and their families. He agreed that transfer trauma is a problem for seniors when their lives are upended, but said he was at a bit of a loss as far as what the legislature could do to further mitigate it.

Serra said he was open to looking at the statutes on the books to see if they need to be “tweaked,” and talked about the possibility of having public hearings on the issue.

Serra also mentioned the possibility of a study, which he said would have to look at the physical condition and pre-discharge condition of those who died.

The Aging Committee already has unanimously approved a bill this session that would require the commissioner of social services to conduct a study of nursing homes to determine whether there is a sufficient number of facilities in the state and whether the services offered by nursing homes meet the long-term care needs of residents.

The bill, which is currently before the House, calls for the commissioner of social services to report the results of the study to the Aging Committee and the joint Human Services Committee “not later than July 1, 2019.” According to the bill, the report may include the commissioner’s recommendations for addressing gaps in the “provision of services and improving access to such services.”

In explaining its opposition to the bill, DSS pointed to a section of the state statutes that require the state’s Long-Term Care Planning Committee to prepare a long-term care plan every three years. It noted that the most recent plan, Balancing the System: Working Toward Real Choice for Long-Term Services and Supports in Connecticut, was released in 2016.

+2 Transfer Trauma

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