At a time when most county nursing homes are being bought by private organizations, our nursing home in Upstate New York has found a way to buck the trend and is receiving tremendous support from local government.

Shaker Place Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, formerly Albany County Nursing Home, is currently undergoing an $80 million renovation to become a state-of-the-art skilled nursing facility. The new name is a nod to the Shaker heritage of the area and is also a move away from the word “county,” which often carries a stigma.

While governments are getting out of the business of owning nursing homes, we leaped into the business knowing that if they’re run the way they’re supposed to be run, and provide quality of care with positive outcomes, you can do a lot and you can be successful within the system. I think most government entities don’t believe that, but we’ve proven that it can be done.

This project is a culmination of efforts across many different entities, including Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. The outdated nursing home is being transformed into a beautiful facility that will truly feel like a home. The work is being done by several local companies including Jersen Construction Group, Angerame Architects, and Gilbane Construction Management.

The nurses station has a modern look.

“Our older residents who call this place home have worked hard their entire lives. They’ve contributed to their communities; some have even served overseas. And they deserve to live their golden years in comfort and dignity,” said County Executive McCoy. “The end product this year will embody that vision with state-of-the-art, energy-efficient equipment, and it will no longer be a drain on county taxpayers like it was when I first took office.”

Staff contributions

The staff at Shaker Place have also played a large part in the success of the project. Everyone from upper management to CNAs and maintenance staff have seen the vision and been supportive from the start. The union was also willing to give concessions up-front in order to allow the administration to realize their goals. Now as the project progresses, I’m pleased that we have been able to give back to the staff everything they conceded and more.

Part of giving back involved designing and building a facility in which that staff can thrive. A modern kitchen, shower facilities, lockers, the latest medical equipment and technology, and new safety measures will allow staff to do their best work in caring for residents.

Bathrooms are comfortable and spacious.

Len Angerame, the lead architect on the project, has understood the importance of designing a nursing home that is functional for everyone, including residents, staff, friends and family. Once complete, every aspect of the nursing home will be handicapped-accessible; every bathroom will accommodate a wheelchair; the common areas will be self-contained for security and safety of the residents; and the amenities will create a beautiful, welcoming environment.

This private bedroom offers pleasant surroundings.

With a renewed sense of purpose and excitement of what’s to come, the management and staff at Shaker Place have demonstrated their commitment to setting new standards of care. Even in the current environment, our nursing center is proud to have achieved a five-star quality rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). That achievement means a lot to everyone who has believed in the project since day one that their trust and support were justified.

Other support

Much support has also come from the community and our Family Council. While some were in favor of privatization or shutting down the facility, community members fought and explained the importance of never letting it close. Without a county nursing home, many people wouldn’t have a place to reside and receive the care they need.

The community has shown their support from the beginning, and with that support, we recognize our fiduciary responsibility not to let them down. At one point the county was losing $18 million a year to nursing home operations. Now, County Executive Dan McCoy believes that we will be in the black within two years.

What we’ve been able to do is provide a state-of-the-art facility and the highest quality of care for the residents of Albany while staying within a government system. That’s the true difference between other government entities and us. If you have the proper administration and you have support systems of government who are willing to make an investment in the future, then this is the result.

Shaker Place Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is in its final stages of renovation and will be completed in the Fall of 2020.

Larry Slatky has been a licensed nursing home administrator for more than 45 years. He is a former board chair of the American College of Health Care Administrators.