Making Progress

Making Progress

Once on the brink of closure, officials at the John George Home have made improvements to overcome years of violations

By Pat Rombyer
Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The John George Home, once threatened with closure for violations including vermin-infested rooms, unsafe dispensing of medication and improperly handling the death of a resident, is no longer at risk of losing its license.

Carrie Good, John George Home Administrator
Carrie Good, John George Home administrator, smiles at resident William Denoyer as the two discuss the new goldfish Denoyer brought in for the home's fish tank

In recent years the home has consistently failed to meet state standards, despite repeated visits and threats to revoke the license by inspectors from the Family Independence Agency.

With the arrival of a new administrator in May and increased watchdog efforts by its board of trustees, the home is cleaner and neater, the medications are monitored, and menus are in compliance. A new cook and nurse have been hired, and there are housekeepers around the clock.

Carrie Good, the new administrator at the home for the aged at 1501 E. Ganson St., was aware the home was threatened with closure in May when she took the job, but she accepted it as a challenge.

When the home’s board of trustees learned last fall of the repeated violations, it fired administrator Kim Loomis, promoted her deputy, fired him, and in May hired Good.

“In my 12 years on the board, I’ve never worked with an administrator who was more passionate and dedicated,” said John A. Campau, board president. “She combines brains with a big heart and a fantastic work ethic.”

Campau said state reports did not go to the board, a practice that has been changed.
“They went to the administrator, and she didn’t share them,” he said. “It was a matter of us making bad hiring decisions, and we got burned.”

The report that prompted the board action was filed after an April 16 unannounced visit by the state inspectors. They arrived to check on a complaint that had been made about a resident’s prescription not being refilled and left with the recommendation that the license be revoked, a recommendation that had been made after previous inspections.

Clyde Strong eats dinner
John George Home resident Clyde Strong, right, eats dinner with other residents

While on site, the inspector logged a dozen serious violations, including:

  • Problems with the medication.
  • Unkempt appearance of several tenants, who were wearing dirty clothes, according to the report.
  • Noxious odors were found in residents’ rooms that were piled with clutter, clothing and debris, coupled with evidence of incontinence.
  • Bedding wasn’t changed weekly, and clothes weren’t washed, ironed and mended.
  • All the residents ate the same meals, the report said, and none of the meals was geared for those who need special diets.

“We were appalled when some of the violations were ultimately brought to our attention,” said Robert Craft, a board member.

Good tackled the physical and clerical aspects of the nonprofit and took time to make friends with the residents.

“She has put in an enormous amount of hours, and she’s not doing it to get rich,” Craft said. “She has a true desire to make a difference in these men’s lives.”

Residents of John George Home
John George Home resident Robert Robison sits on the front porch of the home after dinner

Good is aggressively searching for money to do even more.

A grant from the Weatherwax Foundation paid for new mattresses, and she’s hoping to get new beds to replace what she’s sure are the original steel hospital beds.

“Even simple things like sheets for twin beds and soup bowls,” she said. “The blankets are thin and worn. It’s little things like that.”

Years ago, rooms were sponsored by service groups or individuals, a practice she’s trying to restart. Room sponsors provide about $1,000 to buy paint, curtains and bedspreads.

The home was originally a farmhouse, circa 1835, and converted in 1886 to the city’s first hospital.

It became the John George Home in 1949, named after its founder, publisher of the Jackson Daily Citizen and the Morning Patriot.

Good is new to the geriatric community.

She previously was associate director at the Council for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect of Jackson County, which operates the Child and Parent Center, 806 Greenwood Place.

“I come from a background of children. I wasn’t sure if working here would be as rewarding,” she said. “But it is rewarding. These men need someone to advocate for them and give them a comfortable place to live.”

When she’s not catching up on paperwork, she might be found taking a walk with a resident, challenging one of them in a game of ping pong or even giving haircuts.

“It’s a lot better now. It’s cleaner and it’s not as noisy,” said Bob Stead, 68, a resident for about five years.

The staff turnover, including administrators, has been an ongoing problem. Today, the staff is all new, Campau said.

Lack of money has been an ongoing problem.

The home operates on a $300,000 annual budget, supported by the rent paid by residents, most of whom are on Social Security and have disabilities. The monthly rent is $865, which includes three meals a day, snacks, laundry and housekeeping.

A common misperception in the community is that the home has an endowment, board members said.

Campau said the home consistently runs $7,000 in the red each month, which is recovered through donations, grants and an annual mail solicitation.

Contributing to the financial struggles are ever-increasing state rules and regulations.

“Through the years, there have been more and more rules added,” Craft said. “We want to keep it affordable, yet it’s difficult to keep the rent down and still comply with all the rules.”

Good thinks the financial picture will improve once the home is filled to its 35-resident capacity. She had to discharge some of the men who were not eligible to live there – those younger than 60 or those who could not take care of themselves. Today, 19 men live at the home.

Despite the challenges, Campau said the home continues to meet its mission of providing alternative housing for low-income men who cannot work and have little or no family support.

“The John George Home is the essence of humanitarianism,” Campau said. “It is truly one of Jackson’s greatest assets.”

Reprinted with permission from Jackson Citizen Patriot
Copyright October 20, 2004

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