(Slow) growth industry | TheUnion.com

(Slow) growth industry

Eileen Joyce
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

With a growing age 85-and-up population, baby boomers ensuring plenty of future customers and patient charges that often hit $50,000 a year, nursing homes could be the growth industry of the future for Nevada County.

The county may be seen as a haven for retirees, but the last nursing home was built 15 years ago. A major addition was added to Spring Hill Manor two years ago.

The local growth has been in assisted-living facilities, but right now, there are few financial incentives to build skilled- nursing facilities.

While the four local facilities have been holding their own, the industry as a whole has seen turnover and bankruptcies.

“I think eventually there could be a problem,” said Ron Petersen, administrator of Meadow View Manor.

“There is a certain amount of flux in the industry right now that will have an effect.”

Vicki Young, administrator of Golden Empire Convalescent Hospital, said she doesn’t believe anyone needs to build a nursing home now. But that may change in 20 years.

“We have a good 20 years until the problem will show up,” Young said.

She oversees a 148-bed skilled-nursing facility, with an Alzheimer’s unit, that employs 190, making it one of Grass Valley’s largest employers.

The nursing home was built in 1973 by doctors who felt there was a need for such a facility. It is privately owned by a group of doctors.

The challenges faced in operating a nursing home suggest there aren’t many financial incentives to build more, even if the county population is graying.

Young said nursing homes face a gauntlet of regulations and a Medi-Cal system that provides inadequate reimbursement.

Medi-Cal is a government program that provides health care coverage, including long-term care for low-income elderly, blind and disabled individuals.

“If you and I were to say ‘We want to make a lot of money,’ we would not build a nursing home,” Young said.

At Golden Empire, about a third of the clientele are on Medi-Cal. In contrast, assisted-living facilities generally don’t have Medi-Cal patients, but rely on private funding, Young said.

Grass Valley has four skilled-nursing facilities. The growth lately has occurred in assisted -living facilities.

With National Nursing Home Week, May 12-18, Young and others are trying to counter a stigma attached to placing a relative in a nursing home, or to working in one.

Young, who has worked at Golden Empire for 27 years, said she loves her job and considers it a good field.

The facility says its goal is to provide compassionate, skilled nursing care while nurturing the social and spiritual well-being residents.

On Friday, residents were on a picnic. They do outside visits, bingo, in-house activities, movies, tea parties and other social events.

Claire Enright, the facility’s director of nursing services, said her goal is to make it as homey as possible, plus meet regulations.

“We try to do things in a way to maintain a patient’s dignity so they don’t feel bad about being here,” Enright said.

Young sees the home as a good place to live when you need help, rather than a place where people go to die.

“The stigma was people would go here to die, and that’s not true,” said Young, who noted that the average length of stay in a nursing home is three to five years and the average age is 85.

Graying County

Nevada County population growth 1990 to 2000

Ages Growth

45 to 54 93 %

55 to 64 28 %

75 to 84 45 %

85 and up 62 %

– Source: U.S. Census

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