I-Team 8

New list reveals serious issues at Indiana nursing homes

New list reveals serious issues at Indiana nursing homes

Stephanie Zepelin | News 8 at 6

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — America’s population is aging. One in every seven Americans is 65 or older. As more people growing old are put into care facilities, the federal government kept names of problem facilities from the public. The names of 478 facilities with serious health, safety, or sanitation problems were not released to the public.

Senators released a new list from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of nursing homes with documented problems. We had never heard from the government that these nursing homes, including 17 in Indiana, had such problems.

“You want to look for cleanliness, you want to make sure the staff are engaging with the other residents, what their safety procedures that they have in place,” said Mary Durell, Interim President of CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, a central Indiana nonprofit.

Durell’s organization helps connect older adults and their family members with the best options for in-home care or nursing homes.

“That transition from home to an assisted living, independent care living is also very difficult,” Durell said.

The Senate’s list had four nursing homes in central Indiana with issues – two officially listed as having substandard quality of care:

  • Essex Nursing and Rehab Center in Lebanon
  • Signature Healthcare of Lafayette
  • Rawlins House Health and Living in Pendleton
  • Lawrence Manor Healthcare Center (closed)

Durell’s advice when looking for a nursing home is to check out the same things you would if you were moving into an apartment complex or rental home: Is it clean? Does it smell clean?

“You want to make sure the staff are engaging with the other residents, what their safety procedures that they have in place?” said Durell. “Look at their daily activity sheet to see what they do with the residents. Do they take them out? Do they stay here? Is there a sign in, sign out sheet to make sure that they’re safe? Do the staff wear identification badges? Who’s going to be the physician in charge of your loved one when they’re there?”

Durell recommends visiting often, including when the staff and your loved one are not expecting you. She also recommends stopping in for a meal to check out the food they serve. You may also want to ask about resident’s rights, monthly activities and the visitation policy.

The state has reports on facilities.

Durell recommends checking the facility name against records or reports from the Better Business Bureau as well.

“I think the other thing to do is, try to connect with some people who are actually living there and see how they feel about things,” she suggests.

If you/your loved one have an issue with a facility:

  • Report it to the Indiana State Department of Health
  • Contact the facility’s administrator or ownership
  • Call CICOA if you need help finding a different facility at 800-432-2422

The Senate’s report said problem nursing homes account for about 3% of all homes the federal government oversees.


Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org