Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

March 17, 2014

New Veterans' Home chief aims to improve care

WEST LAFAYETTTE (AP) — In a wooded enclave just north of West Lafayette, Indiana Veterans’ Home gives the appearance of a neat and orderly military base.

The campus has been home to Indiana’s veterans since 1896, when individual counties had a direct role in caring for their war-bruised and battered Civil War veterans.

It’s a nursing home where Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day are solemnized, not forgotten. Where a small army of medical, nursing, dining and administrative staff attend the residents night and day, whether they need only occasional help or constant care.

But as nursing homes go, there’s less here than meets the eye. Despite its large staff, ample grounds and hale camaraderie among veterans, the quality of care at Indiana Veterans’ Home has consistently ranked near the bottom of Medicare’s nursing home ranking system — two stars out of five possible.

The low rankings have been accompanied by turnover of top administrators.

In January, a new permanent superintendent — one with no proven track record of running a long-term care facility but who does have years of nursing, military and administrative experience, and enthusiasm for the job — took office.

Linda Sharp, 50, an Army reservist and registered nurse, is confident in her ability to give fellow veterans the care they deserve.

Whether her leadership will lead to measurable improvement in the Indiana Veterans’ Home Medicare ratings — among the lowest among the county’s nursing homes and nation’s veterans homes — remains to be seen, but her presence already has made a favorable impact on some residents and some outside observers.

Part of that is due to her hands-on management style. She gets out of the office frequently to talk informally with residents and staff. Her outgoing manner is a sharp contrast to the previous superintendent — not counting two interims — who resigned in 2012 after coming under fire from residents and health care officials, who found him uncommunicative and at times unwilling to listen to criticism aimed at improving care.

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