Community rallies for senior assisted living program |

Community rallies for senior assisted living program

Lucy Greene tries to do what she can to help her neighbor. Greene, who lives in the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments, takes time out each day to do her neighbor’s laundry, help her get dressed in the morning, or she’ll take a trip to the store to get her the groceries she needs.

“All I think is, ‘This could very easily be me some day,'” Greene said.

Unlike Greene’s neighbor, most seniors who need some extra support aren’t so lucky. Stuck somewhere between independently able and in need of medical assistance, Medicare doesn’t pay for a nurse to come into their apartment to help them get dressed in the morning.

“These are things that are not covered by insurance, but are necessary for living,” said Tom Ballou, a member of the Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council.

Furthermore, most assisted living facilities are out of the average senior’s price range, costing about $3,000 per month.

Truckee resident Helen Smith wants to see all of this change. Since July 2000, Smith has tried to rally citizens together to start an assisted living organization for the greater Truckee area.

Smith’s vision of the program has volunteers helping seniors with day-to-day tasks.

“The community has famously taken care of its young people, with Kid Zone, the parks and programs,” Smith said. “The time has come to help our senior citizens.”

Affectionately called “the squeaky wheel for assisted living,” Smith’s relentless pleas to the community culminated in a Feb. 12 assisted living meeting. Thirty-five interested parties, including Truckee Police Cmdr. Scott Berry, Mayor Ted Owens, nurses, and Tamara Lieberman of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation to name a few.

It wasn’t the first time assisted living has been discussed, but Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council treasurer Larry Larson said the realization of Smith’s dream is closer than ever.

“First we want to reactivate a seniors’ advisory committee,” Larson said. “They haven’t had a collective voice in a while. Right now we’re drafting a questionnaire to assess seniors’ needs for assistance with living.”

At the meeting, Larson shifted the focus of the prospective program when he clarified “assisted living” as a program with nurses, not volunteers, that usually entails a higher level of care than unpaid community members helping seniors with daily tasks. Larson suggested the program be changed to “assistance with living.”

The senior council members also decided they would oversee the assistance with living program.

“We’ll be participating as a resource group,” said Melanie Kauffman, administrative coordinator for the council. “We want to be a support agency to see how we can link groups like the hospital and the public health department together.”

As for funding, the questionnaire will help assess the needs of area seniors.

“We know there is a need, but we need hardcore data to show there is a need for that funding,” Kauffman said.

Although Smith’s dream is to have an assisted living facility for low-income seniors someday, the resources to operate one may be years and millions of dollars down the road.

“Having a facility is a project on a larger scale,” Kauffman said. “Right now we want to offer what we can with what we can provide.”

For more information on assistance with living and scheduled meetings, call the Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council at 550-7600.

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