Changes at VCC aim for financial sustainability and resident wellbeing
By Eleanor Yarkin, Reporter
Tracing their roots back to 1928, Vashon Community Care is no stranger to change, and the transition taking place this year will have a lasting effect on the island, impacting residents, staff, and the community. They hope to ensure the organization will remain sustainable and functional.
Over the course of a 90-day transition, Vashon Community Care (VCC) is switching from a skilled nursing-care model to a memory support-care model. While skilled nursing provides short-term concentrated rehabilitation or long-term nursing needs, a memory care-support model will focus on providing care to those with memory-related conditions.
“With memory care, we’re also going to be creating more of an advanced assisted living,” VCC community relations and development director Anne Atwell said. “We’ll have assisted living as it is, and we’ll have memory care, but … we’ll provide services in assisted living that we don’t now provide.”
Currently, VCC is helping residents adapt to the changes. Some residents may be able to stay on at VCC as part of the new memory care or heavy-assisted living program, while others will need to move in order to find the right level of care.
“Right now there are 20 people in [skilled nursing], and it’s going to affect those 20 people, no question, but there will be a new group of people that fill those slots very quickly, so it’s a trade-off,” island resident Hilary Emmer, who supports the changes at VCC, said.
VCC is partnering with the Department of Social and Health Services, as well as other local support groups to help residents transition as smoothly as possible.
“I know this is a very difficult time for everyone on the island, whether they’ve got family who live here [or] whether they’ve been a huge supporter of VCC,” VCC executive Director Mike Schwartz said.
The decision to end the skilled nursing care model was due to its lack of financial stability. The skilled nursing-support model comes with costly federal and state regulations that have made the program a non-viable option for the future.
“Over the last year… with Transforming Age, we have taken a lot of steps and put a lot of financial resources into bringing the skilled nursing to the current standards,” Schwartz said. “[We have] put in about 2.2 million dollars, and we’re simply not able to continue that model because it’s simply not sustainable.”
VCC chose to implement a memory support-care model aiming to best serve the needs of the community.
“We did a market study late last year and looked at what the potential was for everything, [including] skilled nursing, memory support, [and] independent living,” Schwartz said. “What we found is that mainly on the island of Vashon there is a need for memory support … there is a need for heavier assisted living.”
There are currently no on-island facilities for people with dementia whose families can no longer care for them.
“My partner died of Alzheimer’s,” Emmer said. “I would have loved for her to be on the island versus going off. For two years she lived in Gig Harbor, at a facility, and I didn’t get to see her every day.”
Although the memory care-support model will begin in July, necessary renovations will prolong the full implementation until the end of the calendar year.
“We have decided to go with the 90-day [transition period] so that we can work with some families very closely for those that might have to move,” Schwartz said.
Changes at VCC will be difficult for residents, their families, and the community. VCC hopes that their continued commitment to serving the island will outweigh the short-term hardships created by the transition.
“This building does matter, the people here do matter, and it is our goal and intent . . . that people will see, through this entire transition, that we’re here for the island and we’re here for the long-term,” Schwartz said.