03/13/12 — Turning grayer: O'Berry takes on task of caring for elderly in nursing home facility

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Turning grayer: O'Berry takes on task of caring for elderly in nursing home facility

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 13, 2012 1:46 PM

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Lynwood Dees, cluster administrator at O'Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, talks about the common area at the nursing home. The center has been named a five-star nursing facility for the second year.

O'Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center has undergone many changes since its doors first opened in 1957.

Starting out as Goldsboro Training School, the General Assembly changed the name to O'Berry School in 1959 and then to O'Berry Center in 1963. Initially, it served children and adolescents, with a peak population of 1,081 in 1964.

It became fully certified as an intermediate care facility for the mentally retarded in 1979. With the arrival of community group homes in the 1970s, client numbers dwindled down to about 500.

As individuals at the center have grown older, its role has changed. To keep pace with the need for long-term care and specialized services, its current name reflected that when the General Assembly again renamed it, in August 2007.

Nearly two years ago, with the conversion of two clusters, a new status was added, to that of nursing home. With 48 individuals living in each of the two clusters, that equates to a total of 96 beds in the nursing home side of the operation, along with the potential for further growth.

"We have a total of six living areas that eventually will convert," said Lynwood Dees, unit director.

"We're still awaiting some funding to complete the transition to 192 (beds)," explained Deborah Exum, center director.

Along with modest changes to the common area and living quarters, the state funded medication vending machines hardwired into the center's pharmacy and made upgrades to the fire and sprinkler systems as well as the kitchen and dining areas.

O'Berry has always specialized in caring for individuals who are medically challenged, Dees said. Now the difference is becoming even better equipped to handle an aging population and accommodating families seeking facilities for their relatives.

While it might have started out with a younger clientele, the median age there now is between 55 and 60, he said.

"One of the major benefits of people living here, our physicians and medical staff get to develop some level of specialty," Dees said.

"We're all committed to do what we do for the individuals that we serve and many of the staff have been at the center for many years," Mrs. Exum said. "So they know the complexity of taking care of the individuals here. They take pride in it."

Among the things implemented to support staff, she said, are additional staff training and a peer mentoring program for those new to the center.

Such efforts have not gone unnoticed.

For the past six consecutive years, O'Berry has received the Governor's Award for Excellence, the highest honor the governor can bestow a state employee or agency.

Since achieving nursing home status, it has maintained a five-star ranking.

And for the second year in a row, it has been named among the nation's best nursing homes by U.S. News & World Report.

Based on health inspections, nurse staffing and medical care, the publication updates its information every quarter and is often used by families and health-care providers caring for people in need of a nursing home.

Two other facilities in the state, also operated by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, also had five-star ratings and made the list -- Longleaf Neuro-Medical Treatment Center in Wilson and Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Treatment Center.

Luckey Welsh, director of state-operated facilities for DHHS, said the agency takes its responsibility to individuals and families very seriously.

"This recognition is yet another opportunity to highlight the excellent work of our staff in serving specialized populations," he said.

"This is a national recognition and this is truly an honor but to us, the most rewarding honor is when we get the recognition from the families and individuals we serve and of course, the local community," Mrs. Exum said.