Senior Housing: There’s a growing need for assisted-living communities around the nation and the Beaches

By Maggie Fitzroy for Florida Times Union

Many of the senior living professionals at a recent open house at Ashford Court at Marsh Landing were business competitors. But that didn’t stop them from friendly socializing. In their industry, there is plenty of business to go around, even in a down economy.

Ashford Court in Jacksonville Beach is an assisted-living community for senior citizens who need assistance with daily living, but are not ready for, or do not want to go into, a nursing home.

With the growing number of senior citizens nationwide, there is a need for more assisted-living communities around the country, including at the Beaches, and there are tentative plans for two more to be built in Jacksonville Beach. Currently, Ashford Court is the only community of its kind east of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Attendees at the Jan. 18 open house included physicians, nurses, therapists, pharmaceutical company executives and representatives from home health agencies, rehabilitation facilities, hospices and senior living communities.

They came to greet Ashford Court’s new executive director, Janann Holt.

But as they sipped cocktails and munched on appetizers, they also came to network with other professionals in the multifaceted, inter-related senior care industry, where professionals continually interact with each other to meet the needs of the people they serve.

Registered nurse Donna Crivaro, who delivers medications to Ashford Court for Guardian Pharmacy, said she’s seen “amazing growth” in the assisted-living industry since she started working in it in 2005.

In Florida, “it’s growing by leaps and bounds,” she said.

Not enough facilities to meet need

Melinda Ingle, spokeswoman for HarborChase Assisted Living and Memory Care on San Pablo Road in the West Beaches, said there are not enough facilities to meet the demand for specialized care, especially for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“We do not have enough places for memory care,” she said. “More and more people are being diagnosed with dementia, which develops into full-blown Alzheimer’s because people are living longer.”

Because seniors’ needs often change due to health challenges, “we all work together in senior health care,” Ashford Court Marketing Director Tracy Deken said. Sometimes, assisted-living residents need to go to a hospital for medical care, then they’re transferred to a rehabilitation facility to recover. When they return to their assisted-living home, they might still need home health care or therapy, so nurses and speech, physical and occupational therapists come to them.

If their health worsens and they need hospice care, hospice workers also visit them at their home, Deken said.

“We all constantly refer to each other.”

About 1 million Americans live in assisted-living facilities, which are designed for people who need help with daily living such as cooking, paying bills and cleaning, according to the website assistedliving facilities.com.

That number is expected to double by 2030, because the number of people ages 65 to 84 is expected to increase by almost 40 percent by 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

There are about 30,000 assisted-living facilities in the country; Deken said 57 are in Jacksonville.

A unique place at Beaches

As an assisted-living community, where residents pay a monthly fee to live, Ashford Court is unique at the Beaches, Deken said. People do not pay a large entrance fee to live there. The Beaches senior-living communities of Vicar’s Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach and Fleet Landing in Atlantic Beach are “continuing care communities,” where residents pay an entrance fee for living arrangements that include the options of independent living, assisted living or skilled nursing, with nursing home-type care, depending on the need.

“This is a month-to-month type of place,” Deken said. “No large investment is needed.”

Florida statutes say people can live in assisted-living housing as long as they can get out of bed and transfer to a chair or wheelchair with assistance, said Melissa Bartley, patient care liaison representative with Apex Home Health. If at some point they need round-the-clock assistance, they need to go to a skilled nursing facility, she said.

The Jacksonville Beach communities of Pablo Towers and Pablo Hamlet offer independent living for people ages 62 and older who qualify financially for the federal subsidized housing. That means residents must be able to care completely for themselves.

Two more on the way?

A few weeks ago, Jacksonville Beach gave Pablo Hamlet conditional approval to build a 60-unit assisted-living facility on its property at the end of Shetter Avenue. Melissa Gilreath, executive manager of Elderly Housing Managing Corp., which manages Pablo Hamlet, said “there is a need, because when our residents are no longer able to live independently, there is no place for them to go.”

At this point, however, the community’s board has not decided when construction would begin, she said.

Ashford Court was built 11 years ago, and there is a waiting list for two- and one-bedroom deluxe suites, Deken said. People pay privately or through long-term care insurance. The memory care area, called The Village, is full and has a waiting list.

The costs of living at Ashford Court, depending on the size of the suite, fit into the national average, which is $3,000 to $4,500 a month, according to the Small Business Development Center. At Ashford Court, that includes three chef-prepared meals a day, utilities, activities and van transportation.

Ashford Court is licensed for 105 residents; 96 live there. A 100-unit assisted-living facility was approved in September for the property at 1315 Second Ave. N. in Jacksonville Beach that used to be the Jacksonville Beaches Woman’s Club.

City Senior Planner Bill Mann said he has not heard when the developers will begin construction. One of the agents, Jorge Suazo, said it will be called Pablo Gardens, but he didn’t elaborate beyond that.

Many of the professionals who attended the Ashford Court open house knew new executive director Holt because she had been director of nursing for five years. She replaces Stacy Hartley, who was promoted to regional director of operations for the managing company, Royal Senior Care.

Deken said even though many of the people who came to the open house “are competitors, we refer to each other.

“We just had a couple who needed a two-bedroom, so we referred them to HarborChase,” she said. “It will come back around. It’s important to put the seniors first.”

[jacksonville.com]

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