Monday Medical: Survey seeks senior housing data

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Let’s talk about senior social security. Not the capital “S” government program, but safe and suitable living options for aging individuals here in Northwest Colorado.

Is our population of longtime residents being adequately served? What about the aging parents of local residents — are they able to move here and find an appropriate new home near family?

Yampa Valley Medical Center, which operates the Doak Walker Care Center, a skilled nursing facility, is seeking answers to these and other questions regarding senior living via a mail survey this month.

We all know that getting older provides some benefits and some challenges, especially in a locale where winter lasts six months or longer. Safety, mobility, nutrition, medical care, finances and proximity to family all can become serious issues for seniors.

Then there is the dilemma faced by adult children whose parents live somewhere else and now need an ever-increasing amount of assistance. Issues can range from keeping up with home maintenance to balancing a checkbook to coping with loneliness.

One of the most important decisions is where to live, when a current residence no longer is desired or safe.

Presently, three different organizations provide senior living options in Routt County, including independent apartments and a nursing home in Steamboat Springs, assisted living in Hayden and home health care throughout the county.

“We think people should have the option of staying within their community as they age and begin to require a stronger support system,” YVMC Chief Executive Officer Karl Gills said.

“We also know that many seniors move to Routt County at an advanced age so that they can be closer to their adult children and grandchildren who live here. That is why we are sponsoring a mail survey this month.”

Gills said the survey is an attempt to get more information from the local senior population, as well as those in the baby boomer age range who have senior parents.

YVMC is working closely with Pearl Senior Living, a Boulder-based company that has offices in Colorado and Nevada. Phil Shapiro, a principal with Pearl, sees the November survey as a community outreach effort.

Shapiro points to several factors that accompany aging and affect many families. These include physical and cognitive limitations such as decreased mobility; an increased likelihood of falling and becoming injured; loss of spouse; memory loss; depression; and decreased sense of purpose.

To counter some of the inevitable effects of aging, he thinks it is important for seniors to maintain a consistent focus on body, mind and spirit.

“Many seniors are continuing to exercise, participate socially with peers and seek out new hobbies,” Shapiro said. “This has led to a significant evolution and growth of active senior living communities around the country.”

Although there are various models for senior campuses, one common element is congregate services. These include meals, housekeeping, transportation and social activities.

Generally, living options can include independent living villas, assisted living environments that support physical challenges, skilled nursing with medical services and “memory care” for those with dementia or serious cognitive issues.

Shapiro said seniors and adult children who are helping their senior parents can gauge independence by looking at instrumental activities of daily living and activities of daily living.

Examples of IADL include the ability to shop for groceries, prepare nutritious meals, manage money and travel to places beyond walking distance. Examples of ADL are eating, bathing, dressing and toileting.

A senior living campus would provide help as needed. An independent resident would require little or no assistance, while a nursing home resident would receive all services including medical care.

YVMC is sponsoring the survey to determine more detail about what our community is looking for. The survey will be conducted by ProMatura, a leading senior living research company on behalf of YVMC.

“We want to get firsthand information from our residents about this important topic,” Gills said.

In order to get surveys to those who are most likely to complete them, a pre-survey post card mailing has been sent to many households. If you receive a post card and want to participate in this survey, please respond.

Your feedback is appreciated and may play an important role in the future project development.

Christine McKelvie is public relations director of Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at christine.mckelvie@yvmc.org.

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