From The Highlander, written by Michael L. Jones

The Rev. Bill Martin left his post as parish priest at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church, 770 Eastern Pkwy., in June 2010 due to failing health. Priests usually serve until they reach 70, but Martin, 66, was forced to retire early because of the onset of Parkinson’s Disease. He asked only that he be placed somewhere where he could still do the work of a priest – minister to people, celebrate Mass and hear confessions. Fortunately for him, there was an opening at Nazareth Home, 2000 Newburg Road, a long-term healthcare facility with a large Catholic population. The transition wasn’t an easy one for Martin, but after a year and a half, he says Nazareth Home was the right choice for him.

The Rev. Bill Martin, center, one of four priests living at Nazareth Home, shares a table in the dining room with fellow residents Ruth Bisig and the Rev. Frank Eimer. (Photo:

“It was really an adjustment,” Martin remembers. “I woke up after a couple of days and thought, ‘I might spend the rest of my life here.’ But then I realized, that wouldn’t be so bad at all. That’s the truth – it’s not bad at all. People still come to visit. They give us very good care here and we have Mass and sacrament regularly. It is very much a Catholic Christian setting. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be at this stage in my life.”

Martin’s praise of Nazareth Home is echoed by the nursing home’s peers. The Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, which represents 235 nursing homes around the state, named Nazareth Home the 2011-2012 Facility of the Year. Scott McClain, the KAHCF communications director, says the award means that Nazareth is the standard-bearer for other members of his organization.

“You’re being held to a higher standard if you’re named Facility of the Year,” McClain explains. “What we tell the judges is ‘When you are doing this, we want you to look as if you were looking for a facility to place your own relative.’ We look for facilities that go beyond what people have come to expect.”

Nazareth Home is holding a celebration on March 8 in recognition of the KAHCF honor, which comes with a winner’s cup and a large traveling trophy that the nursing home keeps until the next year’s winner claims it. Facility of the Year winners are not allowed to enter the contest again for five years. In addition to the KAHCF honor, Nazareth Home, which has just under 250 employees, was selected as the Best Place to work among mid-sized businesses in the Workplace Dynamics’s Top Workplaces program.

Mary Haynes, the CEO and administrator at Nazareth Home, says all the accolades are recognition of the successful transition the facility has made over the last decade she’s been at the helm. “I think it’s because of the stability of the relationships of the people that work here and the ways they have found to partner and care with the families that we serve,” Haynes says. “Both the staff and the families have found a way to put the residents in the driver’s seat. What we try to do is look at the reason that people do not want to come to the nursing home and we remove them. Most people think when they come to a nursing home they are not heard or seen. We show them the opposite is true.”

CEO/Administrator Mary Haynes stops to talk with Nazareth Home resident Robert R. Haas during a walk through the facility. “Most people think when they come to a nursing home they are not heard or seen. We show them the opposite is true,” says Haynes. (Photo:

Nazareth Home is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1976 by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. The nuns opened the home originally as a long-term care facility for the sisters. Though the home is a member of the Catholic Health Association, it is open to patients of all faiths. Director of Development Michael Buckman says due to the shrinking numbers of retiring priests and nuns, Nazareth Home began marketing to patients from non-Catholic backgrounds. Only 18 percent of the home’s 168 current residents are nuns, and Father Martin is one of just four priests at the facility.
Nazareth Home serves two types of patients: personal-care patients, who are mostly independent, and skilled-care patients, those that require staff assistance throughout the day. The home has 118 skilled-care patients. Those residents are further divided into long-term and short-term care categories. Short-term care patients might be people that need help after recovering from surgery but will not be at the facility on a long-term basis.

“What makes Nazareth Home unique is the person-centered care. We try to recreate a home environment as much as we can,” Buckman says. The home has common areas with fireplaces and televisions so that residents can gather and watch the news or movies. “We have one area called Cheers, which is a larger gathering area. The residents come up with all the names on their own,” he says.

In order to even apply for the Facility of the Year contest, Nazareth Home had to go three years with no citations or problems with care. Then they had to put together a written entry with testimonials from past patients, their families and community leaders, and written statements from the home’s administrators. Then there was an on-site visit by a panel of judges not affiliated with KAHCF, and a phone call from a mystery shopper who talked to the staff about the facility. KAHCF splits the state up into five districts and a winner was picked for each district. After Nazareth won its Central district, then there was a second round of on-site visits from a different panel of judges who picked the Facility of the Year from the five district winners.
McClain says the judging panel was impressed with the long list of activities that Nazareth Home offers its residents, including bridge, yoga and zoo visits. The judges were also impressed with the nursing home’s leadership in dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. “What they do is unique and different,” McClain says. “In addition, they take part in the Advanced Excellence in American Nursing Home Programs. They are staying abreast of current treatment trends and trying new things of their own. That’s the kind of standard-bearer the association wants to have.”

Theresa Riddle, a long-term care patient at the home, says she’s experienced the Nazareth Home magic firsthand. The wheelchair-bound 83-year-old says she was reluctant to enter a nursing home but was forced to relent because it was getting harder for her to take care of herself and she didn’t want to burden her family. Nazareth Home was the only facility that interested her, and after a rough transition she’s not only come to accept her situation but to treasure it as well.

“It was hard,” Riddle says. “I had a lot of friends where I was before, but once I got settled, it was wonderful. And I’ve made so many more friends here. Now, this is home.”