About noon on Monday I received a phone call from a friend who asked me if I had heard that the Ocean View Convalescent Center (OVCC) in Long Beach is closing at the end of March. No, I hadn't heard. Not a word.
I am a frequent visitor at OVCC, or "the nursing home" as it is more often called, because my mother, Dale Espy Little, has been a resident there since 2004. She is now 97 years old and, for the last 12 years has suffered from progressive dementia. OVCC has been a blessing for me and my family. It has not only provided my mother with professional care but also has kept her within the community so that relatives and friends can visit frequently. Surely my informant was wrong.
I called OVCC and spoke first to Ruth Doctor, one of the nursing staff, who said, "Yes, it's true. It's not a rumor." She transferred me to the new director, Ginny Schauls who confirmed that the facility will close March 31.
In answer to my questions regarding lack of notification, Ms. Schauls told me that residents had been notified "this morning" and that there would be a meeting for family members on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.
I'm afraid I became a bit testy at that point. It was hard for me to understand why I as a family member had not yet been told of this meeting that was to occur in less than 24 hours.
"We are calling people as fast as we can," said Ms. Schauls. "I had to arrange the meeting for the convenience of the Life Care regional people who are in town today and tomorrow."
Life Care Centers of America operates nursing facilities throughout the United States - more than 20 in Washington and, according to their Web site, three in Oregon. In Long Beach their building on Pioneer Road West is leased and, says Schauls, it has "had financial difficulties" for some time.
Due to the present national economic downturn, and because the building lease will be up within the year, the corporation's decision is to close the Long Beach facility. Although other Life Care Centers have been closed in the past, Schauls was unaware of present closure plans for buildings other than the one at Long Beach.
Efforts are being made by Life Care Centers of America to find another provider to take over the facility, but so far there has been no interest expressed. "It may be that the building owner is also looking for someone," said Schauls, "but I don't know about that."
I was assured that personnel at OVCC will make every effort to find other placements for residents. The nearest Life Care owned facilities are in the Seattle area and there are non-Life Care affiliated nursing homes in Astoria and Raymond.
After my phone call, I took a few moments to review the Life Care Centers' brochure that I was given when we placed my mother at OVCC: The nursing facility understands that placing a loved one in a nursing home is an emotional and difficult time for family members. The facility is earnest in its desire to assist family members during this emotional and challenging time.
I couldn't help but think there should be equal "understanding" when the nursing facility is being closed down. A little advanced notice about Tuesday's meeting would have been a start.