“She’s not a stranger, and it’ll be so much nicer for the residents to see her around,” Lois Grond said. She has lived at the home for more than five years; her sister, also a veteran’s spouse, lives there, too.
Grond said Sharp doesn’t just shake hands and move on.
“She listens. It’s not in one ear and out the other. There is no one more caring for the whole facility. She knows people already.”
There are many residents to get to know, although there’s room for more. Currently, 240 veterans or spouses live at the home, which is at 57 percent of total capacity. In early 2012, the population was 260.
In the mid-1970s, as many as 550 residents lived there, filling buildings that have since been razed due to lack of use or age.
The home has 337 comprehensive care beds in addition to 80 beds in the domiciliary unit, where residents care for themselves. While the domiciliary unit is near capacity, just 51 percent of the comprehensive care beds were filled as of Feb. 5, according to a state report.
Getting more residents to choose Indiana Veterans’ Home rather than nursing facilities in their hometowns is another challenge Sharp faces as the chief administrator. And it may not be easy to overcome given the age, size and location of the home.
Bradford Slagle, a Michigan state veterans home administrator and president of the National Association of State Veterans Homes, said some states, such as Wisconsin, are building smaller homes in locations where families can more easily visit their veterans “and they are filling them.”
Ray Miller, 91, uses his walker to move around. A pilot who served in World War II, he calls himself a “newcomer,” having lived at the home about two years.
He said his family had reservations about his move from Indianapolis, but Miller persisted, saying he was impressed with the home. His family finally agreed, he said.