New assisted living facility features apartments for residents

September 22, 2003|JOHN T. DAVIS

The six-unit building across the parking lot from Charleston Health Care Center on Bruce Court in Danville looks like any other apartment complex. It's got screened-in porches across the back and flower beds in the front.

But for Margaret Worthington of Danville, the apartments, which make up Charleston Assisted Living, were the solution to a difficult problem.

Living in one of the apartments has allowed her to keep her privacy and independence while being near her husband, Obie, who suffered a stroke and is a resident of the nearby nursing home.

"It makes it really nice if you've got somebody down there," Worthington said. "They come up here and roll me across the rough ground, and then they bring me back.


"I eat dinner with him every day," Worthington said. "When I want to come back, I come back."

Worthington, 78, who with her husband operated furniture stores in this area for many years, has given up her house and her car, but she's made a new home for herself in the one-bedroom apartment, which she furnished herself, just a stone's throw away from her husband's room in the nursing home.

Worthington said her son, Ronnie, who lives in North Carolina, has helped her make the adjustment.

"Our son rented this when we brought Obie, and he said, 'As long as you live, I want you close together, and if Obie dies, you can live there the rest of your life.'"

"Assisted living" is not new in Danville. The big kid on the block is McDowell Health's 98-unit McDowell Place of Danville on Ben Ali Drive, and BHI Assisted Living has a 12-unit center on Argyll Woods Drive. But Charleston Assisted Living, which opened in the Spring, is the first in town to offer what basically are apartments complete with their own kitchens, dining areas, bathrooms and laundry facilities.

Melissa Larmour, nursing home administrator and director of assisted living, said Charleston's new facility works well for people who might not be able to live at home by themselves but are still capable of independent living.

"They have their privacy but they have the reassurance that if they need help, there's somebody right there," Larmour said.

"It makes family members more comfortable," she added. "They're still living on their own but have assurance that they're safe and getting the care they want them to have."

The services that can be offered by licensed "assisted living" facilities are carefully proscribed by the state. Charleston Assisted Living is required to have a separate staff of caregivers who can help the residents with such needs as bathing, fixing meals, transportation and "self-administering" of medication (the caregivers cannot give medication).

"They have their own caregivers," Larmour said. "We have someone on-call just for them 24/7, and they are separate from the nursing home staff."

Under state rules, assisted living centers also are required to provide common dining areas and common living areas. At Charleston Assisted Living, residents may use the nursing home's common areas or they may eat in their apartments.

"The daily rate includes all of their needs whether in the privacy of their own apartments or at the nursing home," Larmour said. "They have access to all of the services here."

Asked how Charleston's facility might differ from the much larger McDowell Place, Larmour replied, "We focused ours more on being home-like. They're leaving home for an apartment but it's not that drastic.

"If they want to, they can eat in their apartment. We don't make them eat with everybody else."

Larmour sees a growing need for assisted living facilities, and one factor is a recent change in the state's Medicaid reimbursement rules, which already have forced about 2,000 people statewide to be released from nursing homes. Because assisted living is less expensive than nursing home care, families forced to pay on their own for the care of a family member may increasingly choose the assisted-living option, she said.

The main appeal of assisted living, however, is that it's not a nursing home, Larmour said.

"A lot of families are not ready for mom or dad to go into a nursing home," she said. "A lot of seniors don't want the stigma of going into a nursing home."

But whatever motivates families to check off "assisted living" when looking at the list of options available to seniors having difficulty living on their own, Margaret Worthington is having no second thoughts about her decision to move into the Charleston facility.

"I enjoy it. I loving living here," she said with a smile. "I don't have to worry about a thing."

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