Displaced Seniors Find Refuge In Payson

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When a flood from frozen pipes forced an evacuation from Show Low last month, Manzanita Manor came to the rescue, giving safe harbor to 36 displaced nursing home patients.

"Around 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 28, our Sunday receptionist called me at home and said they were evacuating the hospital in Show Low because of flooding and wanted to bring patients to us," Scottie Justice, administrator of Manzanita Skilled Nursing said. "I called back later and learned it was a nursing home up there, not the hospital."

There were almost 50 residents in the Infinia long-term care facility in Show Low displaced, according to Julie Murphy, marketing and admissions director for Manzanita Manor. Manzanita took in 36 of them and Payson Care provided shelter for another 13, Murphy said.

"They started arriving at about 9 p.m. and continued to come in groups of four and five until 3 or 4 a.m.," Justice said. "We called in the staff to get the beds ready. When the Show Low people came in, we assigned them beds, filled out paperwork and got them registered. We weighed them and then tucked them into bed."

The Show Low people had only brought extra adult diapers with them and the residents had only been able to bring little bags, so they had no clothing, except what they were wearing.

Justice said she was at Manzanita for 28 straight hours.

"I will probably never, ever do a mass admission again. The hectic part was the next day," she said. "Suddenly, it's morning and we're asking how are we going to feed everyone."

It wasn't a matter of having enough food. It was making all the seating arrangements, Justice said.

The second day of sheltering the flood victims, Dr. Michael Lowe arrived at 5 a.m. and stayed most of the day, assessing the Show Low people for admission and writing orders for their care and medication.

Justice said it actually took a couple of days to get everyone and everything organized. That first day after the evacuation, they had to make half-a-dozen room changes and get all the bathing and seating arrangements in place.

"We tried to make sure roommates stayed together," she said.

Fortunately a number of the Infinia staff came with the Show Low patients and were put up in Manzanita's apartment facilities.

"It was such a shock for (the evacuees), I had their staff take care of them at first so they would have a familiar face," Justice said.

Some of those familiar faces and displaced patients are remaining at Manzanita. About 15 of the Show Low residents, mostly members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, will be staying in Payson according to their case worker, Justice said. And some of the Show Low staff was hired for Manzanita.

"I hired two CNAs for weekends and four nurses," she said.

At the height of things, Manzanita had 82 people in residence. As of Jan. 7, that was down to 62, with a few more folks wanting to return to Show Low. The capacity of the skilled nursing facility is 109 people.

"Most (of the new arrivals) have done real well making the adjustment, but with others it's taking time," Justice said.

The Payson residents have responded in much the same way, she said.

Justice said while it was a hectic experience, it was also a good lesson for the staff.

"We learned how to handle an emergency and do a mass admission," she said. "I hope if we ever have a problem like that, there will be a place our residents can go.

"The staff really worked well together," she said. "They all need to be commended for making our neighbors feel welcome. That's a big unrest to be pulled out of your home in the middle of the night."

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