During my tenure at Vashon Community Care, I’ve been struck with how much people on Vashon take care of one another. The amount of effort that went into ensuring that people of all ages were housed, fed and vaccinated during the worst of the pandemic was awe-inspiring, and the creativity and sheer will it took to establish a COVID testing site was remarkable! VCC was engaged in many of these efforts, so I got to see first-hand just how exceptional this community is.
With such passionate neighborliness and a plethora of resources for island seniors, some may wonder where VCC fits into the mix of services for the aging. In this commentary, I’ll define our role as an assisted living community. But first, some context: By 2030, all Baby Boomers will be 65 and over. The US Census Bureau predicts seniors will outnumber children by 2035. Vashon Island has the fastest-growing population of people 55 and over in King County. We need all the resources we can get to support this population!
As we all know, aging affects us mentally and physically, often making it difficult to care for ourselves. The purpose of assisted living is to provide a home for people 62 and older who require help with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, bathing, mitigating fall risk, managing medications, transferring in and out of bed or seats and cognition support.
While people typically think of assisted living as the point between independent living and a nursing home, VCC is licensed to provide care at all levels of need, from low — for individuals who require some assistance performing their ADLs safely and correctly — to high, for individuals whose impairments affect multiple ADLs and require a comprehensive level of assistance from multiple caregivers.
Residents typically live out their lives at VCC, adjusting their care to meet their needs all the way to the end of life.
VCC’s fees cover full room and board and guaranteed 24-caregiving with nursing oversight. We offer private apartments (studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms) in Aspiri Gardens Assisted Living or studios in Beardsley Memory Support. Residents living in Aspiri Gardens function at different levels of independence. Some come and go from the building as they choose, while others stay close to home. All residents need some assistance with daily living.
Severe cognitive decline is often a trigger for moving to assisted living, especially for those who are not safe living at home. Beardsley Memory Support offers a secure space for people with cognitive impairments who are likely to wander. The specially tailored intellectual and wellness programs in Beardsley are designed to stimulate residents’ minds and keep them physically strong.
Our approach is person-centered, adapting to residents’ likes and dislikes in the moment as their needs demand. Staff are trained in dementia and cognitive caregiving and are dedicated to providing a home-like routine for those whose needs are greater than a family can carry. Our individualized programming attention is fundamental to everything we do. We strive to give residents purpose and meaningful engagement. We begin by learning all that we can about a resident, working with the family to create a familiar, comfortable and engaging environment.
VCC dining services provide three healthy meals a day, as well as a midday snack, to all residents. We offer a full calendar of activities for the mind and the body. Our verdant outdoor spaces are full of colorful, fragrant plants and feature raised beds for gardeners to work the dirt. We offer one garden with a secure fence to prevent wandering and will be opening a second secure garden this summer.
When do you know if you or a loved one is ready to move into assisted living? This is not an easy question to answer since cases vary from person to person. However, there are some telltale signs that might indicate needing help with activities of daily living.
As we age, it is normal to experience cognitive and physical decline. Sometimes it can be resolved with adjustments to diet, medication or physical therapy. On the other hand, if our bodies and minds are not functioning as well as they once did, threatening our or others’ safety, then it may be time to consider assisted living. If in doubt, consulting a doctor is the best course of action.
If you would like guidance as you navigate senior care, please consider all of us at VCC as resources. We are happy to answer your questions. We are proud to offer assisted living as one of several options for aging islanders.
Wendy Kleppe is the executive director of Vashon Community Care.