Assisted living heads to homes

Garrison Creek Lodge plans services for people who aren't in facilities but might need the help.


WALLA WALLA -- As much as Garrison Creek Lodge might wish it could be so, not everyone who needs assistance with living situations is going to end up at the facility on Dalles Military Road.

There is no question the senior living industry is a business as much as it is a mission, but there is good reason for it to be both, believes Jim Miller.

As community relations director for Garrison Creek, Miller is frankly pumped about a new program just gaining steam in Walla Walla.

The name is long enough to say it all -- "You don't have to live with us for us to help." It's part of the Walla Walla facility's corporate parent's "Safely Somewhere" program that features home visits for senior citizens.

The service is free and includes nurse evaluations, checks for gaps in services, referrals to area providers and a listening ear, Miller said.

"If there is a senior living at home, or just alone, they can call, the family can call, a doctor can call us -- just to make sure things are alright at home."

Staff and administrators from Garrison Creek will be on hand to come in for simple tasks, such as getting medicine bottles open, fetching mail or lending a listening ear. They will also assist with more complex jobs, like deciphering insurance coverage and checking homes for safety issues, he explained.

And maybe it's just a matter of getting a good meal delivered from the Garrison Creek kitchen, Miller said. "We have very good food, by the way."

Seeing seniors at home tells the truest story of how life is looking, the director added. His staff -- numbering seven for now -- doesn't intend to replace agencies already doing home and health checks, but to supplement what is available now, with less focus on assessment and more on helping expand community and comfort for seniors.

"Churches have been doing this for years, but people are either uncomfortable using it or they take advantage of it."

If Garrison Creek staffers find dire situations, they are mandated to report those to an agency with legal clout, which is a responsibility that should fall on every citizen's shoulders, Miller said.

According to Emeritus, the for-profit corporation that owns Garrison Creek as well as 308 other senior-living communities, the "Safely Somewhere" program is not primarily designed to be a marketing tool. That component is there, Miller conceded, "but not the primary purpose. It is an extension of our philosophy. We are part of the community, we really do care about the people we are visiting."

No senior-living facility is going to attract every person needing that kind of help, he added. "Garrison Creek has only so many apartments. Why not expand beyond our borders?"

For more information about the home visit program call 525-4990.


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