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Summit County Task Force Issues Recommendations to Help Nursing Homes Navigate the Pandemic and Beyo

Nursing home residents can be at risk, but so are people living at home with a spouse or adult children.
Nursing home residents can be at risk, but so are people living at home with a spouse or adult children.

After more than a year of work, the Summit County Nursing Home and Facilities Task Force has released its final recommendations for improving facilities. Many of the suggestions are intended to help nursing homes navigate the pandemic, and beyond.

The 18-member task force of court and health officials, advocates, nursing home administrators and others focused on four key areas: Operations, staffing, legislation and visiting.

There’s a plan to work with Stark State College to develop a pool of nursing assistants to address staffing shortages and using federal funding to equip facilities with laptops for family visitations and medical appointments during the pandemic. There's also a plan to form a community volunteer group called “Elder Corps.”

The group has been working closing with Direction Home on implementing many of the ideas, along with Asian Services in Action, Inc. (ASIA) on ways to help break down the language barrier in employment. Other partners are The Summit County Probate Court, which runs guardianship programs, and the Age Friendly Akron program.

Task force Chair Jeff Wilhite says many of the recommendations are already being implemented.

"It was decided that we not put together a two, three or four-hundred page document that would be handed out, sit on a shelf, collect dust and nobody do anything. We wanted to have a rubber-meets-the-road approach," he said.

Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro says she’s proud of the task force’s work.

"The bottom line is, this is what helps protect people who are in dire need of somebody looking out for them, and making a difference in their lives and keeping them healthy and safe when they often cannot speak up for themselves.”

Wilhite says many of the recommendations are already being implemented, and the group will evaluate its progress at the end of the year.

The task force was formed in 2019 when a facility in Copley was listed among the worst in the nation.

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The Summit County Nursing Home Task Force's recommendations
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The Summit County Nursing Home Task Force's recommendations