COLONIE — A rose by any other name is still a rose.
But when you call the Albany County Nursing Home something else — in this case Shaker Place Rehabilitation and Nursing Center — while spending $80 million it becomes something else entirely.
When the nursing home was built in 1971, it was a state of the art facility where elderly residents were well cared for and there was a waiting list to get in. Time, budget constraints, mismanagement and political vacillation, though, each took their toll and the facility turned into “something else.”
“When we first opened the nursing home, you used to have to know someone to get in. There was a waiting list,” said County Executive Dan McCoy at a press conference announcing the new name and to give an update on the renovations. “It was the gem of the Capital Region and whatever happened it turned into something else. Now, it will be that gem again.”
On Wednesday, July 3 Albany County officials announced the facility’s new moniker, gave a tour and a progress report on how renovations and the 70,000-square-foot addition is coming along.
The existing building was completely gutted with bedrooms on the first floor to make them more accessible for residents. There will be single bedrooms for added privacy and new country-styled kitchens.
The quaint-sounding “Shaker Place” certainly has a nicer ring to it than the generic, “Albany County Nursing Home” and it doesn’t carry the stigma often attached to a publicly run facility.
And, after the renovations are complete sometime around the first of the year — with some new rooms slated for occupancy as early as September — the place won’t have the feel of a government run nursing home either.
The new facility will feature single rooms with a TV. There are common areas and atriums throughout, and each wing will have access to a courtyard. The mechanics, like HVAC, electric, WIFI and lighting will all be state of the art. Unlike the old nursing home, the new facility will be 100 percent ADA compliant and there will be “lift free” equipment to help county employees care for those in need of assistance.
The new nursing home will offer a range of services including 24-hour nursing care; physical, occupational, respiratory, and speech therapies; nutritional programs; social services; recreational activities; clinic services; psychological services; staff physicians; spiritual care and programs; volunteer programs; and more.
What to do with the nursing home has been a topic of debate for years — decades. At crunch time, the county was losing $20 million a year, or about $1.6 million a month. Some were in favor of privatization and getting the county out of the long term care business. Others wanted to raze the existing facility and build new. Others wanted to build new somewhere else. And still others wanted to renovate the existing facility.
“The nursing home was outdated, and the community that governed the nursing home had to make a decision to be in the long term care business and provide quality care and that could not take place in the existing nursing home so the decision was made, as a group, that this was the direction to take,” said Larry Slatky, executive director of the nursing home.
For that to happen, though, the numbers had to work. Two major factors in bringing long term senior care into the realm of affordability are the way the county filed for Medicaid reimbursement from the federal government and the unionized workers at the nursing home made some concessions.
Right now the county pays about $2 million a year to run the nursing home and McCoy is projecting it will eventually break even.
“By turning around the finances at Shaker Place, improving technology and launching a new website to better connect individuals to the available services, I’m proud to bring this facility into the 21st century, because our older residents, our veterans and our taxpayers deserve nothing less,” McCoy said. “With these ongoing renovations, we are fundamentally changing the way we offer programs and services to our nursing home residents, and with that transformation comes a new name,” said County Executive McCoy.
There is also a new website, shakerplace.org.
At the time of the tour, the Times Union reported on a lawsuit filed in federal court that was recently amended to include a fourth party. The suit, basically, says the Albany County Nursing Home failed to provide basic care to the residents and routinely neglected the residents’ basic needs.