Dillingham’s only senior assisted living center opened in 2000 to support the everyday needs of senior citizens. Now they have less than three months to find a new home.
After 19 years of service, Grandma’s House, the senior assisted living center in Dillingham is closing this summer. Community members voiced their concerns at a recent city council meeting.
“People are concerned that they are going to have to quit their jobs to take care of their parents,” Buholm said. "People are concerned they’re going to have to send their parents away to Palmer to Anchorage - basically send them away to die. That’s not what people want to do.”
Chris Napoli, a member of the senior assisted living board, said the decision was unavoidable.
“This isn’t an easy subject for any of us,” he said. “We had to analyze things and make some tough choices."
Grandma’s House is struggling to keep workers on staff. The current administrator is also resigning for personal reasons.
The center's president, Rose Lorea, said workers are failing to show up for their shifts. There is a lack of applicants and potential hires are falling through due to barriers in the hiring process.
“All of them really care a lot for the elders but it’s hard work, it’s back breaking work,” she said. “We just don’t have enough staff to help with the mobilization of the elders, it’s just sort of the catalyst at this point.”
Grandma’s House is currently home to 12 elders. Lorea said they have 12 workers on staff, but that’s not enough to provide proper care.
“The level of acuity of the elders determines how well you can take care of them with the staffing numbers that you have,” she said. “Right now we have three elders that have higher acuity than others.”
But a diminishing staff is not the only issue. Lorea said the cost of operating Grandma’s house from utilities to payroll, is around $500,000 dollars a year.
Grandma’s House also had trouble getting on the state billing system this year. The delay backlogged billing for four months. Consequently, they struggled to receive state Medicaid choice waivers and payment from residents.
The Bristol Bay Housing Authority supports the assisted living centers payroll. BBHA was hit with a $250,000 federal budget cut. This means they no longer have the funds to support Grandma’s House.
“I just read a letter today about, Medicaid holding back any further payments to anyone if a budget isn’t passed,” Lorea said. “If we’re not getting our Medicaid choice waiver payments, our general relief payments and the housing authority can’t carry our payroll. If it wasn’t for the housing authority, we opened in 2000, we’d easily be closed in 2003."
The future of assisted living in Dillingham remains a topic of discussion – one Napoli, a member of the senior assisted living board, plans to explore this summer.
“There’s some financing tied to Grandma’s House that we need to understand what the impacts are and what the facility can be used in the future,” he said. “The city of Dillingham had always hoped that would be some type of elderly care or senior services. We’ll be looking at those options next month.”
Grandma’s House residents have until Sept. 5 to relocate. The assisted living center remains open until then, but could close sooner if residents find new homes before that date.
CORRECTION: We originally published the story with a photo of the Senior Living apartment. We have updated the photo to the assisted living center, Grandma's House.
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