“We promote healthy living and do a lot of nursing education for health and wellness,” said program director Tracy Russo, a registered nurse.
The only program of its kind in Fulton County, it can work with up to 22 elderly people, providing activities that encourage fitness, mental engagement and conversation one to five days a week. Wilkinson Center in Amsterdam has a similar program in Montgomery County.
“We try to prevent hospitalization and emergency room care and help people to live in the community for as long as possible,” Russo said.
She said the nurses are always monitoring participants for subtle changes that may indicate emerging illness and can manage people with such diseases as dementia, diabetes, and heart and respiratory problems.
Melvin Rulison, who was working on a 500-piece farm scene puzzle during the program on Monday said the program is “very nice for elderly people who can’t get out.”
“You come in, you meet people, and you have a lot of fun.”
Dianne Carpenter of Auriesville, who was working on a word-finding puzzle the same day with three other women, said she comes to the program “so I can meet interesting people.”
The nonprofit Wells Nursing Home has 100 beds for residential skilled nursing care and short-term inpatient rehabilitation and also does outpatient rehabilitation.
The need for nursing home and at-home services is increasing as the population ages, said Neal Van Slyke, the Wells administrator. But, he said, wage competition for workers with the private sector is increasing, including wage inflation due to a rising minimum wage. That causes more turnover among health care workers, he added.
Van Slyke said the state is beginning to realize that nursing homes need better reimbursement in such a climate.
He said reimbursement to nursing homes is partially tied to the facilities’ ability to prevent hospitalization and rehospitalization of its residents. His whole staff, in every department, have been trained in the Interact program to recognize subtle signs of deterioration in residents so they can be treated before hospitalization is required.
Robin Wentworth, the home’s director of admissions and case management, said her facility tries to help its patients to find at-home health care. “If they are able to return home, we help them,” she said.
Wells also has a community wellness program that allows people living at home to exercise in the therapy gym anytime Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for $25 per monthly fee.
The rehabilitation department will show them how to use the exercise machines and give them advice on exercise as long as a doctor writes a note saying they are capable of such exercise. “We’re always here when they’re exercising,” said physical therapy assistant Rick Blowers.
Clementine Perritano of Johnstown, who has undergone replacements in both knees, visits the gym three times as week and said the exercise helps her knees. “Inactivity makes these stiff,” she said.
“I have a hard time climbing stairs” but exercising gives her “better movement with my arms and legs,” she said.
Perritano said likes the exercising because “I don’t work anymore, and I sit around all day at home.