Shelton’s ‘unique boutique’ senior living home looks to expand – CT Post

SHELTON — One year ago, Deirdre Virvo opened what she called a “unique boutique” for senior living — a personalized option for those people in need of assisted living and memory care.

Opening the Just Like Home LLC Dogwood Home, as she named it, during a pandemic created concerns. But as the home celebrates its one-year anniversary, the house remains fully occupied, with a large waiting list that Virvo looking to expand.

“Quite a feat considering it was in the middle of a pandemic,” Virvo, founder and managing member of the CT Property Network and the SoCT Real Estate Investor Association, said about the facility’s success.

With a growing list of residents awaiting move in, Virvo says she is searching in Shelton for the future home’s location. The home will be a replica business model of the current Dogwood Home.

Dogwood Home, located at 68 Dogwood Drive, is a 3,300-square-foot ranch-style custom designed home which houses six seniors who require assisted living or memory care assistance. The home has a staff of two around-the-clock caregivers.

The home has extra-wide hallways, large bathrooms with zero-entry showers, fully furnished bedrooms with adjustable full-size beds and cable TV in every room.

“Everything is family style, in a small, intimate setting along with daily activities such as art, pet therapy, lots of live music and exercise programs,” Virvo, senior specialist and author of “Home To Home, The Step By Step Senior Housing Guide,” said. “It’s just like home.”

All meals, cleaning, entertainment and care are furnished by a licensed healthcare agency with staff who specialize in memory care. And Virvo said her goal is to create and open more facilities like Dogwood Home throughout Fairfield County.

Virvo, who has watched as family members suffered through memory care issues, said she wanted a true home for a smaller number of individuals requiring specialized care, rather than the more common “hotel style” facilities.

“My brother (who has Down syndrome) lives in a gorgeous residence, near my parents’ home in New York,” she said. “I had no idea this home-style concept was available to seniors.”

Residential assisted living is relatively common in parts of the country, including Texas, Florida, Oregon and Arizona. But the concept is virtually unknown in New England, Virvo said.

She said the pandemic brought with it advantages and disadvantages when it came to opening Dogwood Home.

The positive was that very few people were coming and going from the home due to the pandemic, which helped keep staff and residents COVID-safe.

“We have seen far too many seniors decline due to being isolated during COVID,” she said. “We have never had to isolate.”

The drawback of opening during a pandemic is that getting the word out about the new facility took some ingenuity since senior centers and other facilities were closed.

She said she was forced to social media, and hosted a live interview show four times a week to get the word out. When the home opened last September, there was enough demand to fill all the openings and start a waiting list, she said. This led her to begin looking into expansion.

“We have been searching for another lovely ranch-style home in Shelton to convert to expand the number of seniors that we can accommodate,” Virvo said. “There is a need for small, intimate, memory care housing for seniors. It is comfortable and more affordable and just right for those who want the home experience.”