By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
With increasing numbers of military retirees electing to remain in Central Texas, as well as population boosts from business and industry in a growing area, several assisted-living facilities are preparing to open in the area and other companies are investigating the prospects.
Until now, the only non-subsidized facility in Killeen has been the Rosewood Retirement Community and Rosewood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at 5700 E. Central Texas Expressway.
Temple has several, and people looking for assisted living have been forced to look there or locations farther away. But Rosewood officials said facilities there may be expanded soon on land available on the site, and the community center at the Creekside Retirement Center at 2710 Cunningham Road is scheduled to open to show some of the 180 living units Oct. 7.
The developer for that center is Colonial Communities of Dallas. Rebecca Russell of Provident Management Co. of Dallas told the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce that interested people may call (972) 733-0096 for more information.
"Every time something about a new center hits the papers, we're just flooded with calls," said GKCC president John Crutchfield, "and it makes sense that there's a growing demand because Fort Hood is a stable military base. More people are retiring here, and sooner or later, they need assisted living arrangements."
Earlier this summer, Canyon Creek Developers, which specializes in small markets, announced plans for senior living centers in Copperas Cove, Harker Heights and Belton within the next two years.
President Christopher Han said the company tries to listen to the communities where it locates and fit its services to what they express, striving for home-like environments. He called assisted living centers a "critical intermediate step" addressing medical needs without creating a medical environment that can be depressing to residents.
Canyon Creek is based in Iowa. Officials of the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corp. said local officials have no public contact information yet because information on schedules and services has not been decided.
Richard Shaw, president of Colonial Communities, said when news about Creekside broke in March, "We've been in business 37 years. We usually build in big cities, but we were attracted to Killeen by the great number of military retirees who are staying in the area or returning after second careers. We're looking for people who have too much income for subsidized housing but too little for high-end retirement communities."
Crutchfield said then that he was surprised that such developers had not come to the area sooner. He also said a Fort Worth company has been investigating opening still another community.
Such facilities have to be licensed by the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which also licenses home health care agencies, another growth industry in the area. Since these operate with mobile personnel from central offices, there are many more of them, and many are nationwide franchise companies.
One company planning an office here is the Omaha-based Right at Home, planning to open 200 offices this year and to go international. Founder Allen Hager said an office in Belton is one of 25 new Texas offices planned this year to add to seven existing ones.
"The Bell County region has a population with 17 percent over 65," he said. "That includes 9 percent locally because the Fort Hood area is younger, but the aging population will grow."
In-home service providers offer a wide variety of services, some offering skilled care by health professionals and some just offering assistance in living such as running errands, cooking and cleaning.
A big part of their function is simple companionship. Their purpose is to help people with diminishing capacities stay in their own homes, forestalling the first step of moving to an assisted-living location, although some older people want to move to apartments for the activities and community.
At each stage, the idea is to make the most of a person's remaining capacity so that the need for greater assistance is delayed.
Richard Kitterman, executive director for the Better Business Bureau of Central and South Central Texas in this area, said, "The industry of commercial health care companies has grown dramatically in recent years. Cost, quality of care and safety are probably the three greatest concerns."
He advised families to consult appropriate nonprofit agencies on the care of both aging persons and those temporarily disabled and to ask the following questions, particularly of home-care agencies:
Does the agency provide a detailed written plan of care? Who is in charge of evaluating your patient's needs, and what are their qualifications?
Does it offer the services your patient needs, such as skilled nursing care or physical therapy?
Does it offer personal care services such as help with using the bathroom and basic grooming?
Is the agency available when we need them, including evenings and weekends?
How long has the agency been serving the community?
Does the agency conduct background checks on all staff?
Are employees licensed to do the work required?
What are the agency's financial procedures? Will you receive written statements?
How does it handle patient confidentiality? It should have written information about the patient's right to privacy.
Kitterman recommended asking for references and checking each one.
"Finally," he said, "as with so many decisions later in life, it would be preferable to do your homework about home health care before it is an emergency. When medical issues are dire, wise consumer behavior is usually one of the casualties."
The American Association of Retired Persons offers a checklist developed by its Vermont affiliate to help older people and their families decide if home health care or assisted living is desirable when it's not a positive lifestyle choice:
Has the person been diagnosed with serious chronic diseases or does he or she have difficulty with vision, hearing, weight loss or walking? Keep a list of health care professionals they currently see and any recent hospitalizations, along with a list of medications and whether the person takes medicine as prescribed.
Are there diagnoses of psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or psychosis? Is Alzheimer's or another kind of dementia present? Are there signs of confusion, disorientation or isolation?
Is the person able to dress, bathe, get up from a chair, use a toilet, climb stairs, use the phone? Does he or she know how to get help in an emergency and shop, prepare meals, do housework and yardwork and drive safely?
How safe is the neighborhood? Does the house have smoke alarms that the person can hear? Can he or she resist telephone and door-to-door fraud?
Does the person get out to see people and/or receive visitors? Do family members live close by, and is there a ready list of people to call in case of need?
How is the person's overall appearance and hygiene? Does he or she dress appropriately in clean clothes?
Is current income adequate? Does the person pay bills on time and make informed financial decisions?
Is the person still engaged in accustomed activities and recreation?
Answers to these questions can help a person decide to enter assisted care and help delay it when it's unwanted. Nonprofit and government agencies can help with interpretation, and the existence of long-term or disability care insurance and other financial resources expand the options.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.