Assisted Living Goes Beyond Bingo
As demand increases, so do the amenities at local homes.
Years ago, older people who needed help with daily living had few choices. Some moved in with their adult children, while others had to enter nursing homes. Today, seniors have a plethora of options. For many, an assisted living community is the best of all worlds. Assisted living offers a wide array of services, including meals, outings, housekeeping and help with daily care when needed. But it also allows seniors to retain their independence, giving them the privacy of their own apartments and the choice of how to spend their time.
Administrators at assisted living homes in the New Orleans area say they have seen the desire for their services grow as more people become familiar with the concept. Poydras Home on Magazine Street is a good example. The home originally offered independent living as well as care for those needing nursing and memory support. A little over a year ago, the home added 22 assisted living suites. “It didn’t take very long to have the building filled,” says Faith Camet-Caluda, director of assisted living at Poydras Home. “We still have a wait list.”
The story is much the same at Ville St. Marie, an assisted living home in Jefferson with 87 units. “We have had waiting lists nine months long,” says Aurora Alleman, general manager. “What has helped us is the housing market has turned around. That means seniors are more inclined to sell their house and use the money for assisted living fees. The cost of assisted living is not covered by Medicare or insurance.”
Assisted living has been part of Lambeth House since it opened in 1998, and it has continued to grow in popularity, says Scott Crabtree, president and CEO of the Uptown home. In 2013, Lambeth House added 61 assisted living apartments as part of a $20 million expansion. Crabtree, too, expects the market to grow as people in New Orleans become more and more accustomed to living in condos and apartments.
National company Sunrise Senior Living built a home in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. After it sustained serious flood damage, the company rebuilt in Metairie. Sunrise offers various levels of care, including assisted living. Ryan Rogers, a regional director of operations for Sunrise, oversees the company’s homes in Louisiana and is bullish about the assisted living market here.
“Without a doubt, I feel the demand is going to exceed what we have to offer now,” Rogers says. New Orleans itself plays a role in that growth, he says; it’s a fascinating city with strong allegiance from its residents who are more likely to retire here rather than move to another state.
To promote more of a neighborhood feel, Vista Shores breaks each building into smaller sections, each with its own dining room, family room, exercise room and courtyard.
What seniors want
Choosing the best fit from among the many assisted living homes in our area can be a challenge. Stephanie Braudrick is a regional manager for a national company called A Place for Mom, which helps families make this decision. Her territory has included New Orleans, so she is very familiar with the options locals have.
“New Orleans is a very tight-knit, family oriented community,” Braudrick says. Local seniors want assisted living homes that aren’t too big, opting for smaller buildings with lots of homey features.
And it’s no surprise that one of the questions Braudrick hears most from New Orleanians is, “How’s the food?”
“One of the really important things is cuisine in the New Orleans market,” she says. Mealtime is a good opportunity for residents to socialize with each other, and people are more apt to linger and visit over meals that feature local favorites, like red beans and rice and seafood.
Prospective residents also judge an assisted living home by its activity calendar, and the homes in turn work hard to offer the activities seniors want. Chateau de Notre Dame, one of the area’s oldest senior homes, is owned by the Archdiocese of New Orleans but accepts people of all faiths. One of its selling points is daily Catholic mass and recitation of the rosary, says Art Callegari, vice president of business development.
Outings are also popular, Callegari says. Chateau has lunch and dinner excursions as well as trips to the National World War II Museum to take in the canteen show. Most homes supply transportation to grocery and drug stores, and some will take residents to doctor appointments. People also like visits to casinos, concerts and movies.
To keep residents active and busy, most assisted living homes offer a daily menu of fitness activities (including exercise classes for those in wheelchairs) and arts and crafts classes. Lambeth House’s expansion included a holistic wellness center with aquatic therapy, fitness classes and a café. The home also brings in speakers and people to put on demonstrations in a variety of fields.
Assisted living residents generally like the freedom from cooking that communal dining rooms supply. But at Ville St. Marie, some residents appreciate the full-size ovens each apartment has. “A lot of ladies like to bake, especially during the holidays,” says Ashleigh Alleman, marketing director. “They share with us, and themselves.”
In New Orleans, monthly fees for assisted living range from $2,000 to more than $5,000, according to how much help a resident needs. Some homes require a buy-in, while others charge a monthly fee that generally includes meals, utilities, housekeeping and security. Compared with other parts of the country, assisted living here is a bargain, Braudrick says. “In New Orleans, tremendous value is brought to the table.”
As New Orleans residents made the move to the Northshore after Hurricane Katrina, the need for assisted living grew there too, says Richard Totorico, executive director of The Trace Senior Community in Covington. He opened The Trace five years ago and recently completed a major expansion; even with the additional apartments, he maintains a waiting list. The natural beauty of the Northshore, plus the presence of two hospitals, makes it a good choice for seniors, he says.
A peek into a private living area at Poydras Home.
Vista Shores near Bayou St. John
Making the adjustment
After living in their own homes for decades, seniors can face some hurdles as they adjust to the communal life. If the older person is the one making the decision to move, the adjustment can be quick, says Sandy Hart, resident services director at Chateau de Notre Dame. “If someone isn’t ready to give up their house, and the family is pushing it, it’s a little more difficult,” she says.
It’s important, too, to let residents adjust at their own pace. “Some residents don’t want to go on outings, except maybe a scenic drive,” says Camet-Caluda of Poydras Home. “Others do. It’s more of an individual choice.” She advises families to give the adjustment period at least one month. “Change is difficult at any age,” she says.
David Schonberg, who owns five senior care homes in the greater New Orleans area including Vista Shores near Bayou St. John, says his research showed him that using what he calls “a neighborhood-based model” would be an effective way to provide senior housing. He breaks each building at his centers into smaller sections, each with its own dining room, family room, exercise room and courtyard. “Instead of eating with 60 people, you’re eating with 20.” Under this model, residents get to know each other better, as do their families, he says. He’s found that at his properties, which include homes on the Gulf Coast and in South Carolina, 95 percent of the incoming residents make excellent transitions within six to eight weeks.
Schonberg anticipates adding to his roster of assisted living homes. “I think the demographic in the country will keep getting older, increasing the need for these types [of homes],” he says. “Maybe not today, but over the course of the next 15 years, absolutely.”
Costs for assisted living are not covered by Medicare or private insurance and typically start at over $2,000 per month. Pictured, Vista Shores New Orleans
Assisted living in Louisiana
Louisiana has about 48 assisted living centers. Monthly fees vary:
• Low $2,500 • High $5,759 • Median $4,030
In Louisiana, assisted living homes are regulated by the Department of Health and Hospitals. They are called “Adult Residential Care Providers.” To qualify, they must care for two or more adults unrelated to the owner or director. They are required to provide:
• A minimum of one room with a kitchenette and private bath.
• Health-related services
• 24-hour supervision
• Suitable activities