Billings nursing home has to relocate people with dementia

Over the past year, many nursing homes in the state of Montana have been forced to close or limit their numbers. The latest victim of the problem in the state is in Billings at the Parkview Care Center, which was forced to move dementia patients to other locations Monday night.

Life is usually predictable for residents at Parkview Care Center, but for patients like Claude Aarberge, that stability is suddenly gone. On Monday night, Aarberge was transferred to the Billings Clinic psychiatric center, and his family said staff told them it was due to staff shortages and low Medicaid reimbursement rates set by the state.

Aarberge’s daughters Susie Sims and Kim Thomas are now worried about how he’s coping with all the sudden changes.

“Just to be sure that he’s in a place now that doesn’t know his routines,” Sims said. “When you speak to the staff they are a mess. They’re sending these people into places they know won’t do well.”

It’s a similar story that plays out across Montana. Nearly a dozen nursing homes nationwide have closed their doors entirely in 2022, and earlier this month MTN learned that Beartooth Manor, another home in Columbus, will close in January.

It’s not just closures that the state sees. St. Johns United in Billings has sought to change its model by reducing the number of beds to better allocate dwindling resources. It’s unclear what Parkview is up to, as the center has never responded to calls from MTN.

Regardless, it has failed patients like Aarberge.

“He doesn’t know anything,” Sims said. “He couldn’t tell me what he had for lunch today, so he can be expected to understand that hopefully this is an intermediate step?”

To make matters worse, both of his daughters don’t live in Montana, making it even harder for them to know how he’s doing. Sims lives in Washington state while her sister Thomas lives in Michigan.

“The moment we hang up, we trust these people to take care of him,” Sims said. “I think it’s just a crippling feeling because we just don’t have anything under control at the moment.”

Thomas said part of their frustration is that Medicaid is handled differently for each state. So, even if they wanted to get their father to where they are now, it wouldn’t be very beneficial for him.

“It’s not like we can get him from Montana to Michigan and it’s just going to be a seamless thing,” Thomas said. “We have now lost all visibility of our father and what is happening to him.”

It’s a frustrating situation for families not just here but across the state, especially as more care facilities are expected to close in the coming year.

“You’ve got a man who’s put 75 years of his life into the Medicaid system, and now they’re just telling you good luck,” Thomas said. “It’s a shame for Montana.”