ELDER CARE: The Maples means quality

FRANKFORT – Many people struggle with the fact that they promised their parents and grandparents they would never put them in a nursing home.

But when the time comes and the choice is inevitable, the family is then faced with finding quality care, which can be difficult. Newspaper headlines routinely shout out horror stories about abuse and neglect, creating a misconception that many nursing facilities have these problems.

One step inside The Maples, the skilled nursing facility in Frankfort, quickly dispels those myths. From the sunlight that streams in through the windows, to the friendly and upbeat staff, to the many activities, to the rooms decorated with the residents’ own furnishings, to the resident cats roaming the halls, it’s clear that this is a caring place.

Last year, the facility won the Governor’s Quality Care Award, presented by the Health Care Association of Michigan and the Department of Consumer and Industry Services. It represents the highest percentage of satisfaction from a survey of families with relatives in the state’s 400 nursing homes.

“It’s a prestigious award and is good public relations, not just for us but for nursing homes in general,” said Fred Sundbeck, RN and BSW, who has worked at the Maples 14 years.

Since it opened in 1960, the Maples has been an important part of the surrounding community, drawing on the closeness of the surrounding small towns, which often means neighbors and friends looking out for each other. That sense of community overflows into the facility, with over 500 hours of volunteer time given each month.

Girl scout troops and school groups come in to take care of plants and visit, volunteers come weekly for religious services and bible study, and they help with crafts, games, special events, reading and transportation needs. There are senior companions who visit daily and local musicians who share their talents. The lush gardens that surround the grounds are tended regularly by volunteers and when a family member who has been a resident passes away, often the family continues to volunteer.

The Maples advocates the Eden Alternative, which encourages spontaneity and variety, and staff empowerment.

“It’s a philosophy of care that the people provide the care, rather than people being cared for,” explained Roxanne Chapman, the Maples administrator, “Everyone, from dietary to the nurses to the business office, is part of the care. We try to provide a loving, caring atmosphere, which is why we have the longevity of our staff, some who have been here 20 years and more.”

The three plagues of aging are hopelessness, loneliness and boredom, according to the Eden philosophy, which promotes a principle that life in a truly human community revolves around close and continuing contact with children, plants and animals. These ancient relationships provide young and old alike with a pathway to a life worth living, according to the Eden Alternative.

At The Maples, residents, their families, and the staff are encouraged to work together to provide the best care possible. The administration works hard to empower staff, residents and family to help make decisions. Staff is encouraged to offer their ideas and suggestions.

Monthly meetings are held with the resident, their family members and staff to discuss their individual care plan, where concerns and suggestions for improvement are encouraged.

Children, family members and pets are encouraged to visit, holidays and birthdays are celebrated with special events and meals that families are encouraged to attend.

Each August, The Maples sponsors the Blueberry Festival, which draws over 1,000 and is now in its 11th year. BN