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Three Cincinnati nursing homes close, 200 residents displaced, as tensions rise to find them new homes

Cincinnati police mediate dispute at nursing home last week over where resident should move
Advanced Rehab of Clifton Park, dba as Solivita of Oak Pavilion, is one of three nursing homes in Cincinnati that are closing.
Posted at 4:57 PM, May 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-23 09:05:23-04

CINCINNATI — Three Cincinnati nursing homes are closing this month, forcing the relocation of roughly 200 elderly residents — many of whom are anxious and unsure about where to go.

“It’s happening very rapidly and it's very stressful for all of these residents,” said Linda Kerdolff, program director, long-term care ombudsman at Pro Seniors, a nonprofit which advocates in Southwest Ohio.

Kerdolff said that while everyone was given a 90-day notice, many workers left as soon as they heard about the closures, leaving facilities short-staffed.

“In effect, these buildings are going to be closed within a few short weeks, by the end of the month really,” Kerdolff said. “So very quickly, residents, families, they have to move.”

These facilities are closing in Cincinnati: Highlands Post Acute on Sherman Avenue in Norwood; Judson Care Center on Harrison Avenue in Westwood; and Advanced Rehab of Clifton Park, operating as Solivita of Oak Pavilion on Oak Street in Walnut Hills.

Highlands Post Acute in Norwood is one of three nursing homes in Cincinnati that are closing.
Highlands Post Acute in Norwood is one of three nursing homes in Cincinnati that are closing.

“It’s a business decision. These are voluntary closures,” Kerdolff said. “What seems to be happening is these corporations are right-sizing their businesses. In all cases, they own multiple facilities. There’s a lot of empty beds and so they’re shutting down and looking to consolidate.”

No one from Judson Care Center responded to requests for comment.

A Highlands spokesperson said in part, "Due to decreased demand for skilled nursing services in the region, Highlands Post Acute will be closing its doors. It is not feasible to run Highlands and another sister facility ... in such close proximity to each other. Our sister facilities nearby, Norwood Towers and Delhi Post Acute, however, have been remodeled and we're keeping our residents and staff together in those two facilities."

Cincinnati-based CommuniCare, a company which owns numerous nursing homes in the area, is managing Oak Pavilion's closure.

"Our company was most recently contracted with receivership to help manage the transition and facilitate the closure of the facility. We do not own the building nor the operation. We are working with an ombudsman, who has been there daily, in assisting in the safe transition of the residents. We greatly value resident rights and it is their decision to choose their next place of residence," according to a CommuniCare spokesman.

The stress of the closures has been amplified by what Kerdolff described as “very aggressive nursing home admissions persons,” who are competing with one another for the displaced residents.

Tommie Scott called Cincinnati police to his uncle's nursing home last week over a dispute about where he should be moved to.
Tommie Scott called Cincinnati police to his uncle's nursing home last week over a dispute about where he should be moved to.

Tommie Scott said he called Cincinnati police on Thursday during a dispute over where his uncle, Northern Johnson, should move. Scott, who has power of attorney over his uncle, chose to take him to a nursing home where his daughter-in-law worked so she could watch out for him. But he said when he arrived to pick his uncle up, he was stopped by a CommuniCare representative, who wanted his uncle to go to an affiliated facility instead.

“I was in his room, that’s where I called the police from. Because they were giving us static,” Scott said. “I was packing his clothes and things so I could get him out.”

Once police arrived and checked Johnson’s power of attorney, he said he was allowed to take his uncle to his new nursing home. A police report and Kerdolff confirmed what happened.

“This should be happening with dignity and respect. And I think we’re pretty far away from that,” Kerdolff said. “These aggressive admissions directors are creating pressure. And tempers are flaring. The police should have no role in this at all … it’s unusual and unfortunate.”

Linda Kerdolff, program director, Pro Seniors long term care ombudsman program.
Linda Kerdolff, program director, Pro Seniors long term care ombudsman program.

Because the time frame is so compressed, families are anxious to visit and chose a new nursing home for their loved ones. Residents are very upset because they often don’t have time to say goodbye to their friends or properly pack up their belongings, Kerdolff said.

Scott is especially worried about nursing home residents who don’t have family members as their power of attorney.

“They’re going to put them anywhere they want them, and no one is going to know where they are,” Scott said. “Some of those residents there don’t even have family and they just do what they want to do with them.”

Some family members have called Pro Seniors in distress, asking, “Where is my father? And they didn’t even know,” Kerdolff said.

Tonya Jackson said her father, James Runyon, was moved out of Judson Care without their family’s permission last week, despite her brother being his power of attorney. They found Runyon at another nursing home that she said was dirty, had rodents and a leaking ceiling. His leg brace and wallet were missing, she said.

“We don’t understand how he was even moved,” Jackson said, noting that her father was recovering from a stroke and “can barely write.”

Judson Care Center in Westwood is one of three nursing homes closing in Cincinnati.
Judson Care Center in Westwood is one of three nursing homes closing in Cincinnati.

Jackson said she has since moved her father to a different nursing home.

Pro Seniors staff members are speaking to all displaced nursing home residents to ensure they understand their rights. And they will follow up with them once they are relocated to see that their belongings have arrived, and they are adjusting to their new homes, Kerdolff said.

“It’s already a vulnerable population. People should not be put under this kind of stress,” Kerdolff said.

As of Monday, Kerdolff said roughly 85 people remain at the three nursing homes that are closing, and she expects them all to be moved into their new facilities by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, Pro Seniors was notified last Friday that Close to Home II, LLC in Middletown, an assisted living, will also close on May 26. There are four residents left, Kerdolff said.

Judson Care Center in Westwood is one of three nursing homes closing in Cincinnati.
Judson Care Center in Westwood is one of three nursing homes closing in Cincinnati.

“The facility is not calling it a closure because they are transferring their license to the owner of the building they lease. But this is a closure because residents were given no notice and have to be out by end of the month. Over the weekend our ombudsman visited, and two residents said they were told where to move, to a sister facility in Brown County,” Kerdolff wrote in an email to WCPO.

Kerdolff is expecting more closures, all related to inflation and the rising costs of food and staffing, lack of workers, and low state Medicaid reimbursement for care.

Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, which represents more than 1,300 nursing homes, assisted living communities, home care and hospice service providers, also expects more closures.

“Everybody is struggling to find staff,” Van Runkle said. “We're reliant largely on government reimbursement sources that have just not kept up with the inflation in the general economy, the inflation in wages.”

Van Runkle is asking Ohio lawmakers to increase Medicaid reimbursement to account for the rising food and staffing costs.

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Pete Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association.

“And without that, I think we could see a disaster,” Van Runkle said, noting that facilities are closing across the state. That means hard-to-place residents with behavioral problems could end up rehoused in facilities several counties away from home.

“This is going to continue for probably at least another decade … you've got more people who need care, fewer people who are in the age brackets of providing that care,” Van Runkle said. “The reality is that people do need skilled nursing care, they need home care, they need assisted living … and we need to have it available for them, and have it be of good quality.”