PRINCETON — Mary Ann O'Neal couldn't ask for a better space for her mother-in-law to be cared for in than on the fifth floor at Gibson General Hospital.
She said the staff always makes sure 98-year-old Virginia O'Neal has what she needs. Her doctor visits on a regular basis and there are extra events like holiday dinners and breakfast with the family that go above and beyond everyday care.
The hospital announced March 28 that the fifth floor long term care and skilled nursing facility, where Virginia and 36 other residents are, will close effective June 30. Some of those residents were there for short term care, but others are looking for a new place to live.
"It’s like family," Mary Ann said. "That’s the thing, that’s what is hitting so hard."
She said change is hard, but it can be especially difficult for the elderly. Virginia has grown close with her roommate and that means Mary Ann and her husband Don are looking to get them into the same facility.
When it first reached the point for Virginia to go to a nursing facility two years ago, Mary Ann told her it would be a lot like going to college. She'd stay in a dorm room and be matched with a roommate, so now she'll be switching dorms but will hopefully keep her roomie.
From the time of announcement to the closing date in June, families have 90 days to find a new long-term care facility. Seeking a facility out of Gibson County wasn't an option for the O'Neals, so that meant four local options to choose from: Two in Princeton, one in Owensville and a fourth in Oakland City.
Mary Ann said her family met with Brian Bailey, long term care and skilled nursing facility administrator, and he provided them with information on the local facilities, including comparisons with GGH.
She said they were provided great information to help them make a good decision and they will most likely move Virginia sooner rather than later to help her get acclimated.
The staff has grown to be like family to the O'Neals and the transition has come with its share of tears after seeing everyone on a daily basis for years.
"We were so happy with Gibson General," Mary Ann said. "I just can’t say enough about the facility."
Bailey said everyone was caught off guard by the news, but families who needed assistance about what to do next are receiving it. He prepared the information the O'Neal family found so helpful, with the hope that no one would have to rely on word of mouth when seeking a new facility.
"I sense a good sense of anticipation at their time of leaving. It’s a matter of going through the stages of shock, maybe being angry, then dealing with and coming to peace with it," Bailey said. "I see people feeling pretty good at the time that they leave."
Bailey communicated with other county facilities and asked that they provide a window of time for residents to move after being accepted. All agreed to offer it and it ranges from a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of 40 days to keep the bed open, which Bailey said is a great convenience for the families.
"I didn’t want to see that families were panicked that they would lose a bed where they had chosen to go, or that they felt rushed to move," he said.
Bailey said they are also working to communicate the specific details that make each resident unique through continuity of care meetings. This could mean passing information about a resident's favorite clothing, when they usually start their day, or their favorite group activity.
"Going through a transition like this has its difficulties, but the satisfaction that we get is that a job well done has been done and that these residents are transitioning to their new location with minimal stress," Bailey said. "I feel that we are achieving that."
'Loving a new person'
Kathy Seibel, administrator at The Waters of Princeton, said the facility is working closely with Bailey and the fifth-floor staff to make sure any potential transition for the residents goes smoothly.
"Brian is really so passionate about taking it easy and making the transition good for everyone," Seibel said. "He is just so heartfelt. If a resident decides to come to us, he has a plan."
Seibel said The Waters' staff is grasping on to any information offered to them about a resident and trying to establish relationships before an actual move is made.
"I just feel so impressed with how dignified Brian and (Patricia Thompson) are about letting the families know, these are your options in the county, these are your contacts," she said.
Seibel said it's also important for the community to be mindful of how this is impacting residents, their families, and the staff.
"Long term care is something no one wants to know about until you have to," Seibel said.
Seibel said even if a family isn't coming to The Waters, she is willing to field questions they have about long term care facilities. And for those who are making the move, she's ready to welcome them to a place she's very proud of.
"I am looking forward to the opportunity of loving a new person," Seibel said. "They are delightful residents."
Nicci StClair, executive director at RiverOaks Health Campus, said people interested in their facility can call to set up a tour or simply walk in when they have some free time.
She said coming in and viewing the facility doesn't commit a family to anything. Visitors will be able to see what is offered and if there isn't a bed available in the line of service they're looking for, they can be put on the waitlist.
StClair said she appreciates the fifth floor letting RiverOaks staff be a part of residents care ahead of a move. Since it can be a hard time for everyone involved, it helps make the transition even more smooth.
The experience has been similar for the facilities located in east and south Gibson County as well.
Brynn Payne, senior director of community relations and sales for Transcendent Health Care, said their team is working with Gibson General to make placement smooth for potential residents and current residents as well who may notice the increase in foot traffic.
Families considering Transcendent can set up tours or drop by when they have time.
Payne said it's easy to schedule something as well if there is a specific team member the family would like to meet or speak with when they come to visit.
Good Samaritan in Oakland City has seen a slight pickup of calls with inquiries since the March announcement and it welcomes visitors who would like a tour.
Montana Roberts, director of marketing and admissions, said there is no waiting list currently, though there sometimes can be for the memory care unit.
"We can get someone in right away," she said.
Good Samaritan Home and Rehabilitative Center
231 North Jackson Street, Oakland City
Transcendent Health Care
7336 West Ind. 165, Owensville
RiverOaks Health Campus
1244 Vail Street, Princeton
The Waters of Princeton
1020 West Vine Street, Princeton