Assisted living back on county agenda |

Assisted living back on county agenda

Kathy Heicher

EAGLE COUNTY – Eagle County officials are again considering opening an assisted living facility in the valley.Four years ago, the county did some serious talking about assisted living facilities. Currently, when local residents reach the point that they need assisted living, they have to leave the county to find that type of care and the closest facility is in Glenwood Springs.Four years ago, the county commissioners also announced their intent to start building an rest home and indicated the project was going to happen soon. So certain were the commissioners of the project that they ordered the dismantling of the community gardens at the Golden Eagle senior housing complex. The county also paid for blueprints and an architect’s model.An expert, however, said the intended site was too small and the operating cost of such a facility was more than the county could handle.The county commissioners wanted a facility in which 25 percent of the units would be available for seniors on limited incomes who qualify for Medicaid. That program typically plays $500 to $600 less per month that the actual costs of keeping a person in assisted living. Demographics are also a factor. Experts say the rule-of-thumb is that somewhere between 7 percent and 12 percent of the population must be 75 or older to support an assisted living facility. The 2000 census estimated that only about 3 percent of Eagle County’s population was older than 65.The topic came up again recently when an Eagle man questioned the county’s spending priorities after he had to place his ailing wife in an assisted living facility in Glenwood Springs.That caught the attention of newly-elected commissioner Peter Runyon. He speculated there are a number of middle-aged, semi-retired people in the valley who would like to bring aging parents closer to them. Runyon suggested the economics could work if the county could find a way to tap into the market for upper-income seniors, which would help to create a facility that would include more affordable space for lower-income locals.”We need to pursue this … we need to find out if indeed there is a latent need,” said Runyon.Plans are in the works for a hospital/assisted living facility at Eagle Ranch, which would be a joint venture by Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs and Vail Valley Medical Center. However, that is a phased project, with a medical clinic as the top priority. At this point in time, officials are unwilling to name a date for groundbreaking on even the first phase.Vail, Colorado

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