By Stephen Smoot
Despite the impact of the pandemic and the Good Samaritan society’s major retrenching in recent years, Pendleton Manor has embarked on a major program of upgrades and services designed to enhance both medical care and also quality of life for its residents.
“We continue to do a lot of updating around here,” said R. J. Kropp, executive director of Pendleton Manor. While the pandemic “was tough on residents and families,” improvements are designed to benefit both.
All the wings received a thorough renovation, 100 wing being the last completed. “We basically gutted it,” Kropp explained, adding that “we rebuilt the rooms” to provide “more privacy in each room.” Semi-private rooms received redesigns to “feel like a private room.”
The 100 wing renovation capped a sustained effort between seven and eight years to modernize design and décor in each wing of the facility. Heating and air conditioning was also replaced in the process.
Improvements did not end there. As Kropp shared, “this spring we’ve been working on a new day room.” He added that they “tore the old one down to the dirt. It should be complete by Labor Day.”
The new room offers expanded space with a cathedral ceiling and more natural light. It opens onto “a very nice porch, a very usable space for our residents.” Once completed, residents will have an outdoor space free of the elements to watch Pendleton County Wildcat football and baseball games on the fields next door.
Pendleton Manor once partnered with the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan, but last January Nate Shema, president and CEO of the non-profit organization, announced that “the Good Samaritan Society is consolidating services and investments in seven core states,” then added that just under 70 percent of the seniors served live within those states.
They decided to disengage with facilities they supported in West Virginia and 14 other states, saying that “a consolidated footprint will best enable us to focus resources and investments.” They closed or sold 40 buildings in those states, and also pulled administrative support from Pendleton Manor on March 31.
Not only did Pendleton Manor need to find new services, they also had to replace technology owned and removed by the Good Samaritans when they pulled out.
Kropp stated that they then had to operate “entirely independently” and will complete that transition by August.
As both non-profit and independently owned, Pendleton Manor is part of a minority of skilled nursing facilities nationwide. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study released last December noted that just under three-fourths of nursing homes are for profit. Non-profit facilities make up 22.5 percent while the government owns 5.7 percent.
Only 33.8 percent of skilled nursing facilities across the country are, like Pendleton Manor, independently operated. The percentage of beds run by independent nursing homes was just under 33 percent.
While the DHHS study claims that “chains may have advantages over independent facilities in their ability to more successfully brand and acquire market share and keep costs down,” Kropp says what makes Pendleton Manor succeed is how closely the facility intertwines with the community.
He explained that the staff and board members often personally know patients at the facility. “Many of the staff have been here for years,” Kropp noted, also saying, “It’s a real community feel, They know these residents.” Many staff and board members have family, friends, even former teachers at the facility. “They have a very caring attitude because these are people they’ve known all their life.”
“It brings a different level of care,” Kropp added.
Community caring also flows the other direction. “We bought a new minivan last year,” Kropp said, then stated that 95 percent of the money for the vehicle came from local contributions. “We’re extremely grateful for community support. You have to be wise with dollars and give results.”
Pendleton Manor also offers services beyond those of a traditional nursing home. Those aspiring to become certified nursing assistants can receive their training at the facility. Kropp describes it as a community service, saying of program graduates, “most apply for a job here, but others go somewhere else and that’s fine.” The board also gives scholarships for those looking to attend nursing school.
Along St. Luke Drive, running south from Pendleton Manor are six cottages for seniors who need assistance in living, but not as much intervention and care as many of the patients. The single cottages and duplexes are all designed for senior needs, especially bathroom showers.
Overall, as Kropp describes, Pendleton Manor’s mission lies in being a full service facility for the community, not just a nursing home.
“We try to cover what isn’t covered here,” Kropp concluded.