Covenant Adds Skilled Nursing Unit

September 3, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDSCovenantVillage of the Great Lakes is a new face in the West Michigan retirement community marketplace, but it's fast closing the gap on any head start its competition might have.

The 105-unit residential complex opened three years ago offering assisted living and memory care services and later independent living, as well. Now, CovenantVillage is only awaiting final word on state certification to begin admittance to its 37-bed skilled nursing unit.

The first new skilled nursing facility in western Michigan in over a decade, Covenant will now be able to offer rehabilitation, respite care and hospice services — completely filling the entirety of the continuing care cycle.

"As soon as skilled nursing is open we will run the entire gamut," explained Brian Mack, director of marketing and public relations for CovenantVillage of the Great Lakes. "We will have a service offering for absolutely every resident regardless of what their need happens to be."

CovenantVillage was designed with the intention of providing continuous care for retirees, intent on offering evolving services to residents as their needs change with age. Until now, however, when that need progressed to skilled nursing care, Covenant was forced to transfer its residents to the nearby Christian Rest Home. The new competency will allow residents to remain at the Covenant campus as their needs progress.

"If someone was fully realizing this concept in the way it was designed to work, it makes far more sense for them to start residentially," Mack said. "They no longer need the four-bedroom house with the lawn maintenance and the house maintenance. They make the decision to downsize and can look at their options. A ranch-style house, a condo, or the potential of a continuing care retirement community, where ultimately they'll be provided security for the long haul."

Residents can choose to move into CovenantVillage before any special needs arise and while still capable of completely independent living. Dwelling units range from 675-square-foot, one-bedroom models to 1,305-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bath residences. Each features a balcony, patio or enclosed porch. There is a full-service health club and community center on site.

As a resident's needs change, the units can be adapted to meet those needs. When those needs progress to assisted living criteria, a resident can be seamlessly transferred into one of the 50 assisted living units, or if necessary, one of the 13 secure memory-care apartments. If needed, the resident may eventually be transferred into the skilled nursing center.

Although the continuous care model is most advantageous when entering as an independent living resident, admittance is allowed for residents of any level of need.

All of these residential services are contained within a two-minute walk of each other, if not in the same building.

This model is not a concept unique to CovenantVillage, as other local communities, including Holland Home, offer a continuum of care. Most of Covenant's competitors, however, do not offer those services all on the same campus.

"We want them to experience the highest possible quality value of life that we can provide in a whole variety of services and amenities around meeting that goal," Mack said. "The beauty of what new construction provides is that we can do some things that some of our colleagues and contemporaries in this marketplace don't have the luxury of doing."

In the three-level building that had contained only assisted living and memory care units, Covenant was able to move the first two competencies onto the upper two levels and retrofit the lower level to meet the skilled definition. The three competencies were all neatly contained in one structure, which will be highly advantageous as it is likely that residents within those competencies will move through the continuum faster than those in the independent living units.

Mack explained that although occupancy levels are expected to be high, at least one unit at each level will be kept available to accommodate any sudden changes experienced in the needs of residents.

Another advantage of new construction is that the campus will be more easily maintained so that its appeal will last well into the next generation — the baby boom generation — that Covenant fully expects to be serving in the not-too-distant future.

"It needs to appeal to someone that is looking at their options," Mack said. "But it needs to appeal today to someone that is the child of someone going into our community right now and it needs to still hold that appeal 15 years from now."

In the coming year, there are plans to break ground on an additional 85 units, for a total of 290 residential apartments once the campus is fully realized.

The partnership with Christian Rest Home will continue, with the two communities serving as backup providers for each other in the case of overflow situations.

The new skilled nursing competency will also be available to the community, as CovenantVillage will be able to provide short-term rehabilitation stays for nonresidents recovering from elected surgery or other ailments.

Medicare certification, available for use by both permanent and temporary skilled nursing residents, is expected in the coming months.

Covenant Village is one of the nation's oldest and largest retirement community organizations, with over a dozen facilities nationwide. Founded in nearly 120 years ago, it is operated on behalf of the Board of Benevolence of the Evangelical Covenant Church.    

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