The Alaska Department of Labor’s October 2012 Economic Trends report estimates that Alaskans, age 65 years and older, will increase 89 percent by 2020 pushing the total of this demographic to 105,000. The demand for senior healthcare will be enormous across the state, but particularly in the Anchorage/MatSu region and on the Kenai Peninsula.
There are two challenges imbedded in this demand: Meeting the demand, and providing quality care. Some may not realize it, but high quality senior care is already available locally by Heritage Place Continuing Care Facility, operated by Central Peninsula Hospital and guided by the Planetree Organization.
The purpose of this article is two-fold: to publicly express our sincere gratitude and thanks for the care our parents have received at Heritage Place and to let readers know just how fortunate we are to have a quality care facility available in our community. We both know this because we have had parents receive such abysmal care in homes in the Lower 48 that we almost lost them to an early grave.
Our stories are very similar and the idea for this article came about during a recent meeting between Mark Dixson (my husband) and Gary. They were discussing healthcare on the peninsula and how Kenai Peninsula College and the hospital collaborate in many ways. Mark shared the story of my mother, Alexandra Camadella, who was a resident at Heritage Place from October 2011 to October 2012. When he was finished, Gary said that he could have inserted his dad’s name in place of my mom’s since their conditions were so similar and the care they both received at Heritage Place was so remarkable.
Gary’s father, Jack Turner, was in a nursing home in Pennsylvania from January-July 2012. Diagnosed with dementia and other ailments, Jack’s doctor told Gary in February that Jack would likely not live through the summer. Dad had lost 40 pounds in the preceding 10 months, was bedridden and couldn’t hold more than a one minute conversation on the phone.
The conditions at the nursing home were deplorable, the healthcare providers were arrogant, unreachable and unresponsive, and the staff simply didn’t care — because — Dad was dying.
In July, Jack moved to Heritage Place. When he arrived, he looked like a Holocaust survivor. He couldn’t stand or walk, and weighed 91pounds. (he’s 5-foot-10). Since then, his recovery has been remarkable, some might say a miracle. He’s gained 35 pounds in three months, can now walk unassisted, and the dementia diagnosis seemed to be a result of improperly prescribed psychotropic drugs. He talks about how he will be golfing again next summer.
Heritage Place has given the Turner family back our father, grandfather and great grandfather. He loves visiting with his 2-year-old and one-month-old great-grandsons. This joy would not have been possible without Heritage Place.
The story of my mom, Alexandra Camadella, reads similarly to Jack Turner’s. Although the New York State nursing home staff tried hard to provide good care, the resident ratio to staff member did not allow for adequate personal care. The doctor on staff worked the system by keeping the residents sedated to make it easier for the staff to cope.
Alexandra arrived at Heritage Place overmedicated and under activated. The staff and medical professionals here immediately began to remedy that situation and my mother thrived. She so enjoyed life at Heritage Place, that at no time did she ever ask me if she was leaving. Although my mom recently passed away due to her heart condition, I truly believe that the last year of her life lived at Heritage Place allowed her to enjoy life again instead of just existing each day.
Everyone who works at Heritage Place — the healthcare providers, social workers, food services, activities and custodial staff has been wonderful. They all truly care about the residents and treat each of them like family.
As our population continues to age and we baby boomers need residential care, we hope that the Peninsula will be able to meet the demand. But meeting the demand should not be the only goal, continuing to provide the quality of care our parents have received at Heritage Place is also key. Heritage Place has set a gold standard and we are grateful our parents have benefited from their superb care.