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County eyes merging long-term care panels

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pasquotank County has two citizens committees responsible for monitoring local nursing homes and adult care facilities, but long-standing vacancies are hampering their work.

Merging them could be the solution, an Area Agency on Aging official told Pasquotank commissioners Monday night.

Brandi Jordan is an ombudsman for the aging agency that operates under the Albemarle Commission. Her job is to advocate for residents needing long-term care, and she monitors their living conditions and quality of care, she said. If necessary, she also refers apparent violations to state officials.

To help Jordan do that job — her agency covers almost 30 facilities across the Albemarle Commission's 10-county region — she relies on community advisory committees. State law requires those committees in every county with nursing homes and/or adult care facilities, she said, and those committees are required to periodically visit each facility and report on any problems they find.

In Pasquotank, one committee covers two nursing homes — Elizabeth City Health and Rehabilitation and Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation — while the other committee covers five adult care facilities — Heritage Care, Waterbrook, Brookdale, and family care facilities Lily's Blessing and House of Love.

The problem, Jordan said, is the two committees in Pasquotank barely have enough members to function. At least two of each committee's five seats have been vacant for over a year, she said. That's making it harder for the committees to have a quorum required for the official visits required periodically at each facility. For official visits, all three current members must be present, she said. Individual visits — which happen often — don’t count as official visits, she said.

Though the committee members may not have a background in long-term care, Jordan said they still provide valuable feedback to both her and facility staff. They ask residents about their concerns and watch out for obvious problems. Examples include call buttons being out of reach or residents not getting fed in a timely fashion.

To make vacancies on the committees less of a problem, Jordan asked commissioners to consider merging the two panels in Pasquotank. State law allows such a merger if approved by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, she said.

The new committee's total membership would be eight, she said, and six of its seats could be filled by current committee members. That would allow the committee to conduct official visits even with one person absent; five members would provide a quorum, she said.

The downside to a merged committee is that its members — all unpaid volunteers — would become responsible for visits to both nursing homes and adult care homes, Jordan said. That's led to some mixed reactions from committee members, she told commissioners.

Commissioners said they were open to merging the committees, but postponed a decision until Jordan provides more information. It wasn't clear Monday if merging the committees would affect any state funding the county receives.

According to information Jordan provided, the current members of Pasquotank's adult care committee are Vandora Saunders, Linda Jones and Deborah Dinsmore. The current members of Pasquotank's nursing home committee are Charles Jordan, David Boone and Carolyn Eason. Eason is resigning at the end of her term in October, Jordan noted.

The committees are required to visit facilities quarterly, except for family care homes, which must only be visited annually. The committees’ reports are a public record.

For more information on the advisory committees, go to www.albemarlecommission.org/area-agency-aging and click on “Long-Term Care Ombudsman.”

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