Claire Coto lives at the Oaks at Fort Hudson, an apartment complex, while husband John Coto lives at the nursing home next door. The arrangement allows them to spend their days and evenings together, while providing John with the care he needed that his wife could not provide — such as lifting him after falls. Both say they were scared, the first day, but that they are now much happier than they were before moving into Fort Hudson. "We're apart but together," Claire Coto said.

This dining room was completely renovated recently, to give residents more space. Now there are columns and wide windows to create an airy atmosphere in what used to be a cramped room.

Betty Wadleigh and her son, Glenn, pose before Wadleigh goes to the adult day care program at Fort Hudson. On her first day of day care, all of her children came along and waited in a room to make sure she felt comfortable, while she feared being "dumped" forever at the nursing home. But she loved it and now has made many friends.

Warren Sholes lives at Fort Hudson's apartment complex, the Oaks. He moved in with his wife, Jackie, so that she could get easy access to the care she needed before her death.

Fort Hudson started as a nursing home, but it is now doing everything it can to help people live at home instead.



It now has more clients in the at-home nursery and day care programs, as well as in an apartment complex next door, than are living at the nursing home itself. Everything is so popular that people generally must apply and wait for an opening—which may happen quickly or months later.

As the company celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, CEO Andy Cruikshank said the growth in the last few decades has been counter-intuitive.

“It’s ironic that in some ways we’re doing everything we can to put the nursing home out of business,” he said.

In 2006, he started a day program that picks people up in a handicapped-accessible van, provides medical care — even insulin and tube-feeding — and runs social activities. Clients spend nights and weekends at home. About 50 people are in that program.

One bed at the nursing home is reserved for clients in the non-resident programs, so that their caregivers can go on vacation. It has also become a valuable backup when a caregiver has been hospitalized, leaving no one to take care of the person at home.

One woman makes her family’s reservations a year in advance, setting up several long weekends for a disabled brother while the rest of the family travels.

Then there is the Oaks, a 61-unit apartment building next door. Residents there are guaranteed a bed at the nursing home if needed, and spouses can live there while their loved one lives at the nursing home. Family members coming to visit a nursing home resident can rent an apartment for the weekend.

It all adds up to a nursing home with a diverse community — clients in the day program bowling or playing piano, while able-bodied spouses eat a meal in the dining room or cheer on a loved one’s first steps in rehab.

“You know what I noticed first? The smell. There’s no smell here like other nursing homes,” said Warren Sholes, who moved into the Oaks with his wife, Jackie, more than a decade ago.

“I couldn’t take care of her at home anymore,” he said sadly. “We knew her health was bad. It made me feel more comfortable that I could have a place for her. We had priority here for a bed, which is huge.”

Claire Coto moved into the Oaks as well, with her husband, John, moving into Fort Hudson, because he kept falling and she could not lift him on her own. It took 20 weeks, but the rehab got him walking after a broken hip, John Coto said.

“For years she put up with a lot before I got here. Falling in the shower,” he said. “I feel independent now if I walk with a walker.”

Claire Coto said she felt relieved, too, even though it meant she was no longer sharing a bedroom with her husband.

“I don’t worry about him. So that pressure is gone,” she said. “John comes over, I cook, we have dinner together. We go out. We’re apart, but we’re together.”

“I don’t feel like I’m in a nursing home. They don’t just put you in a room and you just sit there,” he said.

Fort Hudson puts a lot of effort into rehab so that residents can move around more easily. Even clients in the day program get rehab.

Betty Wadleigh joined the day program after she recovered from a broken hip. She wasn’t able to walk.

Her son, Glenn Wadleigh, added that, after her broken hip, she lay in bed all day, every day, deeply depressed. After four months of that, he signed her up for the day program.

“They got her up and walking around,” he said. “If it weren’t for here, she wouldn’t be alive.”

She was not eager to come, the first day. So her entire family came, too, waiting in a room to see how things went.

That’s a common fear when people move into a nursing home, said Ann Marie Donahue, director of social work and admissions.

But staff at Fort Hudson have found that when clients start out at one of the nonresidential programs, the transition is seamless if they have to move in later.

“They know, ‘They did a good job taking care of me at home, they’ll do a good job taking care of me here,’” said Beth Bruno, director of home and community services.

Indeed, when Sholes was hospitalized, he spent two weeks at Fort Hudson recovering before moving back into his apartment at the Oaks.

Fort Hudson is glad to have him nearby. Workers say they take in the whole family, not just the resident, when one person moves in.

“We take care of the whole family,” said Holly Vaughn, director of nursing. “We’re very supportive of the family.”

That’s the thinking behind the day program. They have a roll-in shower, so that people don’t have to try to lift an adult at home in a slippery, inaccessible bathtub. They have an accessible van to transport people, because if someone cannot get out of a wheelchair, their family may not be able to take them anywhere. But the family still wants the loved one to be able to live at home — present for every dinner, every social event on the weekends, every quiet night.

So, for more than 250 residents of Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Essex, Fort Hudson helps them stay home.

“I tell my employees, we live every day. We only die once,” Vaughn said. “So make every day count, because you don’t know when it comes to an end.”

You can reach Kathleen Moore at 742-3247 or kmoore@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ByKathleenMoore or at her blog on www.poststar.com.

Most of the long-term nursing home residents at Fort Hudson are covered by Medicaid.But the many other services are often paid for out-of-pocket. The day care program was divided into two so that people who had to pay privately would not have to pay the much higher Medicaid rate.

Forget the institutional-style dining rooms. Fort Hudson Nursing Center has redesigned its dining areas with vaulted ceilings and full-wall windows.

“The Senior List,” which reviews products for seniors, published a list of nursing home deficiencies, organized by state, based on every nursi…

FORT EDWARD — Fort Hudson Nursing Center is offering a new service to help patients get home successfully.

Claire Coto lives at the Oaks at Fort Hudson, an apartment complex, while husband John Coto lives at the nursing home next door. The arrangement allows them to spend their days and evenings together, while providing John with the care he needed that his wife could not provide — such as lifting him after falls. Both say they were scared, the first day, but that they are now much happier than they were before moving into Fort Hudson. "We're apart but together," Claire Coto said.

This dining room was completely renovated recently, to give residents more space. Now there are columns and wide windows to create an airy atmosphere in what used to be a cramped room.

Betty Wadleigh and her son, Glenn, pose before Wadleigh goes to the adult day care program at Fort Hudson. On her first day of day care, all of her children came along and waited in a room to make sure she felt comfortable, while she feared being "dumped" forever at the nursing home. But she loved it and now has made many friends.

Warren Sholes lives at Fort Hudson's apartment complex, the Oaks. He moved in with his wife, Jackie, so that she could get easy access to the care she needed before her death.

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