Group seeks opinions on assited living | CraigDailyPress.com

Group seeks opinions on assited living

Christina M. Currie

Many area residents believe there is a severe housing shortage in Moffat County for senior citizens whose needs fall between independent living and a nursing home.

The solution, Moffat County Housing Authority members say, is the construction of an assisted living facility in Moffat County to care for seniors who need help with basic day-to-day living.

The idea has been brewing since April and Moffat County Assisted Living Steering Committee members are ready to seek public input on whether to build an assisted living center and what services it should offer. The group created a survey they shared with the more than 30 community members who attended a public awareness meeting Tuesday night.

There are 24 questions on the survey, used to determine the need and desire for an assisted living center in Moffat County. People are asked to consider themselves or loved ones as possible candidates for assisted living. One question about funding asks, “Would you support a tax increase to pay for an assisted living center and if not, how would you suggest it be paid for?”

Committee member Georgina McAnally stressed there have not been any decisions made about funding.

The survey will be sent to registered voters in Moffat County in mid-January and committee members hope to have it back by the first of February.

There are three senior facilities in Craig Valley View Manor, Sunset Meadows and Rainbow Living Center. Of those, Rainbow Living Center is the only assisted living facility. Sunset Meadows is independent living and Valley View Manor is a nursing home.

According to Sunset Meadows Director Celine Derick, there are several residents of Sunset Meadows who need the assistance an assisted living center would provide. Not only is that not available in Moffat County, regulations prohibit resident acceptance based on health or skills.

Sunset Meadows is considered Section 8 HUD housing. To consider a tenant, Derick can only take into consideration age and income.

“I was told, ‘It makes no difference if they come in on a stretcher,'” she said.

The problem is Sunset Meadows is considered an apartment building. Staff members cannot administer medication, help residents with cleaning, dressing or grooming. According to Derick, staff members aren’t even allowed to pick up a resident if they fall. They can only make that person more comfortable and call an ambulance. Meals and an activity bus are provided to residents only because of funding from the Moffat County Board of Commissioners. Even if assisted living options were available, Sunset Meadows staff members cannot insist a tenant move unless they violate their lease.

Other than the Rainbow Living Center, with a capacity of 16, the closest assisted living center is The Haven in Hayden. If there is no space there, people are taken to Kremmling, Fruita or Palisade.

Assisted living centers are regulated by the Department of Health and are considered “unskilled care facilities” required to have a registered nurse or licensed nurse practitioner on staff, but staff members must take a course on administering medications.

According to Robert Grubb, director of the Rainbow Living Center, the level of care provided by an assisted living facility is up to its director or governing board.

Typically, an assisted living center will provide meals and assistance with bathing, grooming, dressing, cleaning and taking medications.

Offering an assisted living center to the community offers seniors the chance to socialize with like-minded people, said Mona Weaver, director of The Haven.

“I think it’s important to make this phase of their life a meaningful, wonderful time, not just let them count time,” she said.

One condition of an assisted living center is that it have 24-hour staffing.

There are three possible ways to set up an assisted living center: private for-profit, private non-profit and government regulated. The Haven is a private, non-profit facility, “because the people we’re serving are friends and family and we want to make it as affordable as possible,” Weaver said.

Grubb warned people at the meeting to not overstate the need for an assisted living facility in Moffat County.

“Just because it looks like we have 100 people who need assisted living, it doesn’t mean if we build one with 100 beds they’ll be filled,” he said.

But Weaver said she is seeing a push across the state to construct more assisted living facilities.

“I think in time you’ll see an assisted living center in each community so we can all keep our valued seniors in our area,” she said.