New assisted living facility opens in Winchester

WINCHESTER — Area senior citizens searching for assisted living care now have another option with the opening of Green Valley Commons Assisted Living in Winchester.

Located at 549 Valley Mill Road, the facility can accommodate up to 43 residents and offers an array of amenities, including home-cooked meals, recreational activities, a physical therapy gym, an indoor therapy pool and semi-private to private rooms.

Executive Director Kristian Sawyer said there is a great demand for assisted living facilities in the region.

“We’re starting to see a lot more of those trigger diseases set on early, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, hitting people in their 60s, not their 70s or 80s,” Sawyer said. “There have also been a lot of facility closings recently, so there’s demand from that as well.”

Green Valley Commons is available for anyone over the age of 18 who requires assistance in living. According to Sawyer, the facility can take anybody from the fully functional to the bed bound, as long as they do not require a nurse to attend to their condition.

Sawyer said the facility has tried to move away from an institutionalized atmosphere, trying to offer people a home-like atmosphere.

“We want to give residents the best quality care possible, but we also want them to feel like it’s their home,” Sawyer said. “That’s why we allow family to visit whenever they want, as long as it’s not disturbing other residents.”

Sawyer said the facility is not like the institutions of old, where people were locked up for an indefinite period of time. Residents are free to come and go and even bring their automobiles to the facility.

“In this industry, we used to call them lockdown units, where you could just lock somebody away,” Sawyer said. “In reality, unless you’re law enforcement, you need a lot of things in place in order to legally lock somebody up.”

Instead, if a resident is too ill or not mentally [capable] of leaving the facility safely, they use a “wander guard” system. The resident will wear a wristband and if he walks out a door, staff is alerted.

“They can still step out and have a breath of fresh air, of course somebody will be running after them to tell not to go any farther,” Sawyer said. “We just have that capability, but we won’t use it unless we have to.”

According to Sawyer, many times the holiday season is when the children of senior citizens begin to have conversations about placing their parent or loved one in a facility.

“Generally what happens, especially this time of year, the kids who are not around all the time visit and realize the kids who are around mom and dad are getting tired and afraid,” Sawyer said. “It starts out there, but at one point or another, they make the decision.”

Once the facility is up to capacity, Sawyer said she expects it to employ 45 to 55 people, including registered medication aides, certified nursing assistants, housekeeping, cooks and a dietary assistant.

Sawyer said the facility is meant to attend to residents for any length of time.

“We expect to care for some people for 10, 15 years, until the end of their lives,” Sawyer said. “But circumstances change and every resident is different. Some may have had a spouse who died, so they don’t want to live alone, they move in, then they leave after a while when they feel better.”

According to Sawyer, the meals at the facility will be home-style, such as meatloaf or pork chops, and prepared in accordance with Virginia nutritional requirements.

“We’re going to provide a restaurant-like dining experience, especially at dinner time,” Sawyer said. “It’s definitely not the assisted living of old where the meals were served on plastic trays, like in a public school.”

Under Virginia guidelines for an assisted living facility, the minimum amount of recreational activity a facility must provide residents is 15 hours per week. According to Sawyer, Green Valley will be offering 35 hours of activities a week.

“We’ll have everything from church services to fishing to movie nights with popcorn,” Sawyer said. “We also have a gym for seniors to work out in, because we’ve seen that more seniors [are] being physically active.”

Cost of residency at the facility depends on the level of care a resident is required and is payable through insurance or out of pocket funds.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com