Maple Lawn Nursing Home to ask for a tax increase on April ballot, asking voters to help the nursing home stay community-minded

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PALMYRA, Mo. — Susan Stark, a resident at Maple Lawn Nursing home who is in her 90s, is the author of several cook books. 

This was recently celebrated by the nursing home when they took several recipes from her cookbooks and created them, with Susan helping teach along the way. After that, she did a Q&A with fellow residents who were able to get to know her on a deeper level than they did before.

“When she did that she was in her element. She was reliving through this and smiling, laughing and enjoying. Just being seen and recognized,” said Alice Humphrey, activity director at Maple Lawn.

A different kind of healthcare

It’s a health issue that’s sometimes overlooked but an important one according to Lori Gough, who is the social services director at Maple Lawn. When people who are elderly, especially in nursing homes who are often among a community of people who never knew them before, feel like who they are and the things they did throughout their lives are forgotten.

Gough said if they come in and feel like they have nothing to offer as a person, they often face depression and then their health starts to decline. 

“If we can build on their strengths and their likes and we can make them feel like they do have things to offer. It really helps their their attitude and their mental well being and that goes a very, very long way,” she said. 

The goal at Maple Lawn is help them hold onto their identities for as long as they can.

“We have veterans. We have homemakers. We have women who have raised multiple children. We have people who have lost children. They have worked and they have done so many things in the arts,” she said. “They deserve to be treated well and they deserve to have those memories kept alive.”

Humphrey tries to make unique experiences for them as well including a day of thrift store shopping, where they take clothing donations and create a store out of it, sorting clothing by size. Residents can come in and shop with friends using Bingo Bucks, which requires none of their personal money.

They also have an Academy Awards night where each resident receives an award and certificate. They attend the ceremony with a candlelit room and sparkling juices. Everyone is recognized for something special about themselves.

“We have a guy who is very proper and is very mannerly and we call him “Mr. Debonair” or we will give an award for “Best Smile” or “Social Butterfly” and everyone gets an individual award about them,” said Humphrey. 

NURSING HOME AT RISK

Jessie Soondrum, administrator at Maple Lawn Nursing Home, said this specialized and intimate type of care is in jeopardy due to rising expenses and cost. Maple Lawn, which is one of 25 county-run nursing homes in the state, and the nursing home is right now financially at a risk.

Maple Lawn is struggling due to the same rising costs of food, gas and more that is causing families, businesses and others to struggle. 

Because of this a tax levy increase regarding this will be on the April ballot to increase the current 13 cent tax to 25 cents.  Soondrum said the current 13 cent tax rate has been the same amount since the 1980’s when Maple Lawn became a Marion County-owned nursing home.   

This is the second proposed tax for Maple Lawn as one to increase the tax by 35 cents failed at the ballot box last August. Soondrum said they have lowered the amount they are asking for, but the need for the increase has actually grown since the previous proposal.

Like other nursing homes, Maple Lawn is still recovering from COVID. He said many workers went to work for staffing agencies during that time, which means the nursing home is competing with wages they were already struggling to match. This is on top of state-mandated annual minimum wage increases. 

Soondrum reported that the cost per resident is $175 per day with other operating costs raising that to around $220 per day. Medicaid pays $173 per resident per day.   

The tax, according to Soondrum, is comparable and actually lower than the tax rate at other county-operated nursing homes throughout Missouri. He said public libraries receive more tax revenues, 14 cents, than Maple Lawn.

Staying Small

Maple Lawn nursing home currently has 32 beds open.

Soondrum said increasing the number of residents at the nursing home would initially bring in more income, but it would also stretch an already-thin staff and require more staff at a time when finding workers is already difficult. If they turn to staffing agencies for workers, much of the income from the number of increased residents would go to paying the agencies.

“So that’s why it is it sounds like a good idea to just logically just fill up all your beds. Make money, there you go. But unaware of the way are you getting people but you don’t have enough people to take care of them,” he said.

Soondrum said without the tax increase, there is a good chance Maple Lawn would eventually become a corporate nursing home, which generally has a lower staff to resident ratio. 

Without a proper number of staff, residents will not receiving the intimate care Maple Lawn is known for, said Soondrum. It also puts residents in danger with not enough staff attempting to lift them, bathe them which could lead to more accidents.   

Also becoming a corporate staff will take away the community aspect of what Maple Lawn strives to be as a county, nonprofit, nursing home. Soondrum said Maple Lawn is a favorite for clinical sites to use for nursing students. 

Not willing to compromise

Soondrum said residents at Maple Lawn thrive in the community-minded atmosphere and the level of care they receive. Some residents are living past the 100-year-mark. One resident is currently 102.

“What makes us unique is our quality of care and that our sense our residents have a sense of belonging with the community,” said Soondrum. “We have a lot of people who love just coming in and offering their time. That’s something we don’t want to lose.”

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