Senior living: Part 2, housing |

Senior living: Part 2, housing

Lorna McDaniel

Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on the quality of life for Douglas County’s senior citizens.

Everybody will require long-term care at some point in their life, said Bobbi Lazzarone, a post-retirement researcher from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Instead of getting care from family members at home, many people are relying on professional care facilities.

“Thank God for the caregivers,” said Greg Painter, managing partner and developer of Virginia Creek continuing care retirement community. “(Caring for seniors at home) becomes burdensome to families and not viable because of working mothers.”

The industry is growing with three new facilities moving into the area.

The facilities are needed to meet the needs of the county’s growing senior population. According to the county’s master plan, the senior population grew by 1.1 percent from 1990 to 1995. Seniors hold 13.2 percent of the county’s population.

The trend is not limited to Douglas, as 25 percent of Nevada’s total population are seniors, according to Lazzarone.

Nevada will continue to gray, with the elderly population expected to double by 2020 as the baby boomers – the largest segment of people to move through the population – begin to retire, she said.

Painter and his wife discovered there was a lack of senior housing when he and his wife Holly were searching for a place for Holly’s mother 2 1/2 years ago.

He said that seniors need housing with various levels of care that provide independent, assisted and skilled-nursing living.

“With free-standing care, you have to uproot them and move when they need a different level of care, which is a drain on the economy,” he said.

He added that most facilities offer only one type of care which means that some seniors are in convalescent homes who don’t need to be, or once their conditions change, they have to move to another facility.

The Painters’ residential community, which is expected to open in May 1998, will meet the needs of all levels of care, he said.

The community will be the only continuous care facility in northern Nevada, he added.

“Our facility is cutting edge to serve seniors for the next quarter century,” he said.

He said seniors can stay at Virginia Creek until they die. This would allow them to stay with their friends or a spouse who may require a different level of care.

“All you have to do is go down the hall to see them,” Painter said.

Virginia Creek will accommodate 200 seniors in the facility to be built adjacent to Carson Valley Medical Center off Highway 395 south of Gardnerville.

The residential community will feature 30 units of studio, 1- and 2-bedroom apartments with congregate dining. Rental rates for Virginia Creek will begin at $1,320 per month for studio apartments with basic service.

Assisted living for the physically frail will cost $2,295 for a studio apartment and about two hours of care daily.

Higher levels of care will cost more and will include skilled nursing and physical therapy as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s care.

The 2.5-acre site of the Carson Valley Residential Care Center is also under way in the Ranchos to help provide the need for assisted living. It is expected to open in April

Services include minimal assistance and supervision, three meals daily, laundry, housekeeping, recreational activities. It will not provide nursing or health care services. Rates begin at $1,150 per month for semi-private rooms.

Douglas County already has several small group homes for assisted living.

One of them, Valley View Care Home, owned by Robert and Betty Gonzalez, has six residents. They are planning to expand to meet growing need for long-term care.

Robert said group homes are designed for people who are still able to get around, but don’t need to be in a convalescent home.

He said he thought it was unfortunate when people enter convalescent homes that don’t need to be there.

“I think it is almost like having one foot in the grave, especially when they can function pretty well,” he said.

He said group homes help people to stay active because residents are around people who are on the same level.

“Being at home alone can be tragic with nobody to communicate with,” he said.

However, the group homes can’t replace family.

“Families don’t come by as much as I would like to see,” he said, “but maybe they live out of state.”

He said he sometimes calls family members to remind them that they are missed.

Rent at Valley View for a private room is $1,500 a month.

Beyond assisted living, skilled nursing may be required for some seniors.

However, the average length of stay in a nursing home is less than five months, Lazzarone said.

Only 5 percent of people die in a nursing home, she added.

Karen Armstrong, administrator of Cottonwood Care Center, a skilled nursing facility, confirmed this.

“Some people still come to us to pass on,” she said. “But we have had a lot of success with patients going home.”

She said the center offers transitional care from an acute hospital to an assisted living facility or home.

She said the center has a few people who don’t need to be in there, but because they are in wheelchairs, assisted living facilities won’t take them.

The center can become a home for patients who have no families and would not survive in a solo situation, she said.

“Not only do they get care, but they have companionship as well,” she said.

Most of the patients pay for Cottonwood with Medicaid and Medicare but about 20 percent pay out-of-pocket.

Debra Ross, owner of Senior Services Plus, said one of the reason she quit working at nursing homes in Washoe County after four years was the lack of care on the part of the staff.

She said that many times she would come on shift to find some residents lying in bodily excretions and not properly bathed.

“The people hired to work at nursing homes are under-paid and not screened well to care for the people,” she said. “It’s not hard to become a nurse’s aide.”

She explained that a lack of care could be related to the workload of the aide being too much or laziness.

Painter agreed that improper care can be a problem.

“But it doesn’t have to be with good administration and training,” he said. “(Good) attitudes are inspired from the top down.”

Ross also complained that the cost of nursing homes is outrageous.

To combat the high cost of long-term care Ellie O’Toole co-founded the Sierra Assisted Living Foundation.

She said the self-assisted senior and disabled adult co-operative facility will save medical cost and free beds in medical facilities for those who need them.

She said many people use Medicare to pay for nursing homes because they can’t afford to pay for assisted living facilities.

SALF will allow the residents to be independent in studio apartments with private bathrooms and common living and dining areas.

The residents will help with the cooking, driving, and maintenance of buildings, grounds and vehicles.

The younger more able-bodied residents can help the older, more frail seniors, and vice versa, she said.

For example, a physically disabled adult who is mentally alert can help in the office.

Rents start at $550 and range up to $700, depending on the income of the resident, O’Toole said.

She said SALF will continue to promote fund-raisers to help cover the basic cost of residents who can’t afford the program.

SALF will host a benefit golf tournament June 28.

Grants and donations have helped with construction. With current funding the facility will house 60 residents. However, O’Toole said she hopes with further grants the facility will expand to house 72 residents.

She added that already 90 people have signed up to live at the facility, which is expected to open in June.

SALF is having an orientation at 2 and 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 at the museum in Gardnerville.

For information call 885-1999.

Coming Saturday: Senior activities.


A story in the Feb. 15 issue of The Record-Courier incorrectly stated the date The Older Americans Act was enacted as 1976. The legislation was passed in 1967.