In the past year, many nursing homes around the state of Montana have been forced to close or limit their numbers. The most recent victim of the problem in the state is in Billings at Parkview Care Center, which was forced to move dementia patients to other locations Monday evening.
Life is usually predictable for residents at Parkview Care Center, but that stability is suddenly gone for patients like Claude Aarberge. Monday evening, Aarberge was moved to the Billings Clinic psychiatric center, and his family said employees told them it was due to staffing shortages and low Medicaid reimbursement rates set by the state.
Aarberge's daughters, Susie Sims and Kim Thomas, are now stuck worrying about how he is dealing with all of the sudden changes.
“Just to know for a fact, that he is now in a place that doesn’t know any of his routines,” Sims said. “Talking to the staff, they’re a mess. They’re shipping these people off to places they know they won’t do well."
It's a similar story that is playing out all across Montana. Close to a dozen nursing homes have completely closed their doors statewide in 2022, and earlier this month, MTN learned that Beartooth Manor, another home in Columbus, will shut down in January.
It isn't just closures that the state is seeing. St. Johns United in Billings has tried to change its model by reducing the number of beds to better allocate shrinking resources. It's unclear what Parkview intends to do, as the center never responded to MTN's calls.
Regardless, it's left patients like Aarberge in the lurch.
“He knows nothing," Sims said. "He couldn’t tell me what he had for lunch today, so to expect him to understand that this is an intermediate step, hopefully?"
To make matters worse, both of his daughters do not live in Montana, making it even more difficult for them to know how he's doing. Sims lives in Washington state, while her sister Thomas lives in Michigan.
“The minute we hang up the phone we’re trusting those people to care for him," Sims said. "I think it’s just sort of paralyzing feeling because there’s just nothing in our control right now."
Thomas said part of their frustration is that Medicaid is handled differently for each state. So, even if they wanted to move their father to where they are, it wouldn't be very beneficial for him.
“It’s not like we can move 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’s happening to him."
It's a frustrating situation for families not just here, but across the state, especially with even more care facilities expected to close in the coming year.
“You have a man who’s paid into the Medicaid system for 75 years of his life and now they’re just saying sorry good luck to you?" Thomas said. "It’s a shame on Montana.”