Haven’s low capacity concerns director
Fewer people being attracted to assisted-living facilities
Hayden — A quick walk through the long hallway of The Haven illustrates a disturbing trend among assisted-living facilities in the area.
Open doors lead to empty rooms, and empty rooms indicate a growing problem for the nonprofit organization that bridges the gap that once existed between completely independent living and skilled medical care.
A dozen or so people came together in 1992 to raise $1.5 million for a building in Hayden to house people who did not require nursing home care but whose safety and security was compromised by living alone in a house.
Within a few years of The Haven’s 1996 opening, the 20-bed facility averaged 18 residents.
In recent months, however, that number has fallen, and today only 10 residents make the facility their home.
The low capacity concerns director Lucy Rickman, who said she struggles to find a reason why more people do not take advantage of The Haven.
“We saw a need in this valley, but I’m just amazed that we don’t have more people coming,” Rickman said.
Many of the vacancies occur as residents die or move to the Doak Walker Care Center as their health deteriorates.
Now fewer people fill those vacancies.
The absence of tenants in The Haven’s apartments might reflect a nationwide problem.
“The people of the World War II era are gone,” Rickman said. “Steamboat and Hayden lost a lot of people, and others aren’t quite convinced they need us yet.”
With fewer people to attract to the assisted-living facility, Rickman said she must recruit with a little more fervor.
That involves actively talking to the families of potential residents and stressing the benefits of living in a setting that still provides freedom to come and go with the security of living in a community, she said.
Rickman said she doesn’t know how to improve the current situation that seems to plague so many assisted-living facilities now.
“Our future looks financially bleak,” she said. “Somehow we have to weather the storm.”
Diane Grubb, one of the owners of Rainbow Living Center in Craig, can sympathize with Rickman’s plight.
The Rainbow Living Center once hosted 24 residents, but now only 11 residents live at the assisted-living facility.
The center closed one of its buildings, cut staff and began looking at renting some of its property in an effort to cut costs.
“We’ve just been doing some downsizing,” Grubb said.
More families are taking their older parents home rather than relying on the care of other people, she said.
Some older residents just refuse to leave the home where they’ve lived for so long, she said.
Both Rainbow and The Haven accept Medicaid, but Grubb said she has seen no takers for the federal help recently.
Like Rickman, Grubb sees a national drop in the number of people who fill assisted-living facilities.
“We’re not even getting some calls,” she said.
Grubb said Rainbow relies primarily on referrals from families pleased with the service.
Carole Schaffer, director of the Doak Walker Care Center, works closely with The Haven. Several of her residents come from the Hayden facility and sometimes return after their health improves.
Before The Haven existed, Routt County lacked a major link in a chain of care, Schaffer said.
Not all older residents are ready for a nursing home environment like the Doak Walker Care Center right out of senior housing, she said.
With the addition of The Haven, she said, older residents could go from independent living to senior housing to assisted living to skilled nursing care.
“We feel like we now have the continuum of care,” she said.
The Doak Walker center has recently experienced the same effects of a smaller pool of people who require its care.
Since the new center opened more than a year ago, 10 percent to 25 percent of its beds have been empty at one time or another.
The numbers, Schaffer said, can’t last forever, as baby boomers in the next decade require care.
“It’s kind of a trend, but it’s definitely going to change,” Schaffer said.
Rickman and Grubb said they both intend to try everything to keep their facilities afloat while they ride the tide of low enrollment.
That makes sense to residents, such as 86-year-old Evelyn Hall, who call The Haven home.
This is where her friends are, she said.
“It’s a good place.”
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