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Nursing home consolidating into one facility by summer’s end

By Anna Jauhola
Since the 1980s, Kittson Healthcare in Hallock has operated two separate levels of one nursing home. That will come to an end in August.
With continued decline in resident numbers and struggles to hire enough staff, the operation’s board of directors made the decision to consolidate the upper level residents into the lower level facility.
“We are not closing,” said Gabriel Mooney, Kittson Healthcare CEO. “People can still call us up, we have openings and we’re still caring for our current residents. We needed to change our model.”
Mooney, who is also the nursing home administrator, said resident numbers have not rebounded since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In November 2020, the lower level nursing home housed 56 residents. Due to deaths, that number decreased to 40 by the end of December 2020. Now, the current total resident number – both upper and lower level – is 37. The lower level can accommodate up to 55 residents in 30 rooms and has space for both private and double rooms.
There is also a slow-down in admissions, one reason being people are healthier as they age and have more opportunities to remain in their homes, Mooney said.
While integrating cognitively declining residents with those on the lower level will present its challenges, it will also bring possibilities. For years, the upper level nursing home has served as a memory care unit, with a secured entrance. Those with cognitive issues have been assessed, and those who may present an “elopement risk” will wear bracelets for the WanderGuard system. The system sets off an alarm if they leave the facility unattended.
Mooney said most bracelets will be attached to assistive devices like wheelchairs or walkers. Those who are independently mobile will wear the bracelet on an ankle.
“It’s been successful already,” Mooney said, noting a few upper level residents have already moved to the lower level. “We’ve had it less than a month and it’s helped. They’re fairly standard in nursing homes in general because they are not locked.”
At the beginning of July, residents and their families received letters informing them of the nursing home consolidation. Mooney said residents’ reactions have been mixed, families have expressed concerns and questions. He has already visited with the resident council about the change.
“Some are fine with it. Some would say they like it the way it is,” Mooney said. “With that being said, when I look at other nursing homes, most are not like us with separate units.”
Staff will be working to mitigate any major changes, such as memory care residents’ possible mood changes that can cause some unrest for other residents.
Staffing for the nursing home will not change – everyone currently employed is keeping their positions. Kittson Healthcare will continue to actively recruit nursing home clinical staff – CNAs and nurses.
Once all upper level residents are moved to the lower level by the end of August, the upper level nursing home will be empty. But Kittson Healthcare is working on plans for the space. Although it is undetermined at this point, Mooney said there are a combination of possibilities — chief among them is moving therapy into that space.
“Things are being discussed so the upper level won’t go unused,” he said. “It might be an expansion of services outside of the nursing home. Physical, occupational and speech therapy has really grown by leaps and bounds in the last eight to nine months. And they’re outgrowing their space. This would be the next logical fit.”
The upper level may sit empty for a little while, but not for long. And if there is any remodeling, it will be nothing major, Mooney said.
If anyone from the public has questions about the nursing home or anything regarding Kittson Healthcare, Mooney encourages and welcomes phone calls to his direct line at 218-843-3803.

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