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Senior apartments turn to assisted living to draw residents

Trinity Terrace added assisted living services Jan. 4.

Rich Ludwig hopes the promise of a little extra assistance will be good for business at Trinity Terrace.

On Jan. 4 the senior apartment building, part of a complex that also includes Trinity Care Center nursing home, started offering assisted living services. The services, which include help with medications and bathing, among other things, are a step between independent living and nursing home care, and Ludwig hopes it helps bring residents back into a building that has seen occupancy drop to around 50 percent in recent years. That's well below the 90 percent Ludwig, the facilities' administrator, said Trinity needs to break even.

People who live at Trinity Terrace seem happy there. Marsha Montigne, housing director for the building, said only two residents left for a similar facility. But many longtime residents have moved on to nursing homes or other arrangements, and Trinity has been losing potential residents to larger apartments in newer buildings.

Trinity hired a consultant to help identify ways to bring residents back, and spent several months studying assisted living setups at other facilities in the Trinity network and beyond. What they've come up with is a package that offers residents three meals a day, weekly housekeeping, help with medications, a weekly shower and RN visits twice a month, among other services.

Services are also available on an ala carte basis for residents who don't need the full assisted living treatment.

That has meant some changes at the facility. Where Trinity used to have housekeepers trained to offer limited care if they were needed, now they have certified nursing assistants who do a little housekeeping. Lunch and dinner offerings are also new.

Ludwig hopes the results will be worth the trouble of making the adjustments. He believes offering assisted living options will help seniors live on their own longer and keep them out of nursing homes.

Trinity is the only large-scale assisted living facility in Farmington.

The change wasn't immediately popular with current residents. Some worried the facility would be overrun by residents who needed special care, or that the assisted living services would be forced on them.

But Montigne said all it takes for an otherwise healthy senior to go from independent to needing assistance is one bad fall or a lingering illness. And a little more than a month in, the idea seems to be catching on. The complex currently has four assisted living clients, all of whom were already Trinity residents when the facility made the change.

There is already one new resident moving in specifically because of the assisted living services, and Ludwig expects more once the facility gets up and running with a county program that helps cover some of the costs of the assisted living care.

Even residents who haven't enrolled seem to be warming to the idea.

"They're starting to enjoy having a nurse in the building," said Jackie Brula, the facility's director of home care. "I get calls about every little thing."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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