Not only a name change at Valley Meadows |

Not only a name change at Valley Meadows

by Andy Bourelle

What was once Cottonwood Care Center is now Valley Meadows Rehab and Subacute Care Center, and the differences between the two are vast, according to the facility’s administrator.

“Really, the only things that are the same are the residents and the doors,” said Jim Heinzen, the center’s administrator since late December 1997.

Under the operation of Carson-Tahoe Hospital, Cottonwood failed its annual licensure inspection in May 1997 and faced a $3,000-a-day fine and a ban on admissions for several months. Premier Care Health Services took over operation in August 1997, and the fines and ban on admissions were lifted in October.

The name changed to Valley Meadows last month, but numerous changes were made prior to that and continue to be made.

One significant difference between the Cottonwood of a year ago and today’s Valley Meadows is the staff. Valley Meadows has 101 employees, and Heinzen said most of them are new. The employees who are still there from when Cottonwood was out of substantial compliance with state requirements are ones who were evaluated as quality workers.

“It wasn’t the building’s fault,” Heinzen said. “It was an employee-performance issue.”

Workers who “just flat out don’t care” about the residents are no longer there, Heinzen said, and current staff members have a simple guideline to follow.

“We treat the residents like they are our own parents,” Heinzen said. “If you’ve treated them the same way you would your parents, then you’ve done your job.”

Another significant change is the increased activities Valley Meadows provides, which are largely a result of the facility’s new activity director, Evelyn Martinez.

“If I only had half her energy, I would be in the Olympics,” Heinzen said.

Posted near the entrance, for the benefit of the residents and visiting family members, is a board displaying the many activities Valley Meadows provides. With the help of about 40 volunteers, Valley Meadows provides Bingo, birthday parties, Bible study and more on a regular basis. Exercise is provided daily. Special outings are planned, too, including picnics, trips to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, going fishing and going shopping.

“We just do a lot of different stuff,” Martinez said, “whatever the residents want to do.”

Valley Meadows has scheduled a family dinner for St. Patrick’s Day and an Easter egg hunt and theme dinner for Easter.

Martinez also has instituted an adopt-a-grandparent program, where Douglas County residents visit the facility’s residents and attend theme dinners with them.

Beyond the staff and activity changes, however, Heinzen said there have been several “little” changes, too.

“We’ve made a lot of little changes that don’t seem like a lot, until you consider that this is the resident’s home,” he said.

The employees try to personalize Valley Meadows, to make it more “cozy” like a home, rather than “antiseptic” like a hospital. Heinzen said there is a new room for bathing residents, which is “as nice a tub room as I’ve ever been affiliated with.”

Traditionally, employees left Cottonwood for lunch. Heinzen said this would leave the facility short staffed in the event of an emergency. To avoid this, employees now have the opportunity to eat the same food as the residents for only $2 a meal. Heinzen estimated 60 to 70 percent of the employees eat Valley Meadows’ food.

“Everybody raves about it,” Heinzen said. “That’s just an indication of how good the food is.”

The $2 a person per meal goes back into Valley Meadows’ activity fund.

Every resident has a wristband which designates what his or her diet is, so no one is being fed what they are not supposed to. So diabetic patients are not left out, all desserts are edible by diabetics.

“(The desserts) are all low fat, all low sugar,” he said. “None of (the residents) needs to be eating that stuff anyway.”

Valley Meadows has put up a board, which illustrates what employees are working and where at in the facility. If a family member comes in and residents are “all over the place” involved in activities, the board tells what caregiver can locate a particular resident. It also helps for family members calling Valley Meadows to check on someone.

“Any family member is welcome here 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Heinzen said. “Anyone’s welcome here any time they want.”

While much work has been done, Heinzen said the “job is never completed” and work continues, including one wing of the facility which is being turned into a unit for Alzheimer’s patients.

When the ban on admissions was lifted in October 1997, the state bureau of licensure and certification issued Cottonwood a provisional license, allowing the facility to have a 100-resident capacity. When the care center reaches that point, the state will do another survey before allowing Valley Meadows to reach its full 125-resident capacity.

Premier Care currently leases the facility from Carson-Tahoe Hospital. Also at 100 residents, the license will become Premier Care’s.

With Valley Meadows at 88 residents, Heinzen said he would call the state for the follow-up survey after the admission of about seven more residents. He does not expect any problems at the time of the survey but does not expect to be without deficiencies. He said Nevada is one of the few states where none of its nursing homes are without deficiencies.

“Either they all stink, which I doubt, or Nevada is incredibly critical of its nursing homes, which I’m not against,” Heinzen said.

Heinzen said if the state inspections are “fair and objective but very knowledgeable and critical,” it only helps Valley Meadows.

“If we have one more pair of eyes looking around, helping us make this the best place we can make it, then that’s a good thing,” he said.

Premier Care’s owner, David Holmberg, was the administrator until Heinzen took over. He came to get the facility out of sub-standard caregiving, and Heinzen will remain as the permanent administrator.

Prior to coming to Valley Meadows, Heinzen said he was administrator of a facility in Arizona. In 1996, it won an award for being the Arizona Health Care Association’s facility of the year. If a similar award is offered in Nevada, Heinzen said he wants to be in the running for it in 1999.

While more than one lawsuit was filed against Cottonwood last year, Heinzen said those are not directed at the current facility. The alleged instances took place prior to Premier Care coming in, and Carson-Tahoe Hospital must face those allegations.

Heinzen said he had been reluctant to change the name to Valley Meadows but has benefited from the change. Because people have read so much negativity about Cottonwood, they are reluctant to visit it to see if the facility is right for their loved one. The name change has helped people realize it is a different care center now.

“Once people get in here, they understand, but often people just say, ‘well, I know about Cottonwood,'” Heinzen said. “The name change was beneficial almost immediately.”

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