The slippery slope

Ron Maxwell

Does the prospect of a nursing home in Little Washington give you a queasy feeling? If so, you’re not alone.

There already exist nursing homes at every point of the compass, north, south, east and west of Little Washington. Take a drive. Check them out. They proliferate because we want them. With the aging population, we need them.

But there are other things people want as well: big box stores, bowling alleys, fast food outlets, race car tracks, casinos, amusement parks, office buildings, multiplexes, strip malls, factories, quarries.

Every one of these facilities or operations already exist within an hour’s drive of Little Washington. Any one of these businesses could bring employment and tax revenues to Little Washington. Why not invite them all?

Everyone reading this knows the answer. Because in no time at all Little Washington would be transformed into something else. It would become Front Royal, Charleston, Culpeper, Warrenton, Gainesville, Haymarket. Nothing wrong with those places. We go there all the time. But is that really the future for this little corner of the world? Is this future inevitable?

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. So the saying goes. It would be advisable for anyone weighing in on this issue to visit a few operating nursing homes in the region. Take a good look. Observe the footprint of the facility on the land. Note the space actually required for parking lots and driveways. Take the trouble to count the parked cars at any given time. Watch the traffic in and out of the facility: employees, deliveries, maintenance vehicles, waste removal, ambulances, visitors. How much additional noise is generated? How much lighting is required around the clock, all night long? How much additional security and traffic control?

Without a doubt some people will profit from the installation of such a major business enterprise in Little Washington. Without a doubt tax revenues will increase. If those are the only criteria to be considered it’s a no brainer. But as we well know, these are not the only criteria. There’s also the basket of variables factored in as ‘the quality of life.’

Like many others, I moved to the county because it had not yet been ruined by the improver’s zeal. What makes this place so special is that it isn’t what surrounds it on all points of the compass. When that changes, to the extent it does, it is no longer special, no longer unique, no longer the bucolic oasis amid the madding crowd.

Do we need reminding that everything we want or need is already within an hour’s drive in any direction? Can we still appreciate an open field, the dark night sky, the quiet of a small town, the absence of traffic, the presence of wild animals, the stillness of nature?

As someone of an age who could find himself in an assisted living facility at any time, I wouldn’t mind being settled in a rural location with a view of the Blue Ridge from Page, Greene, Albemarle or Rockingham Counties. In no way would I want to impose on the tranquility and charm of Little Washington.

I’m guided by a simple equation for the protection and preservation of the unique character of the county. If a project requires concrete or asphalt — don’t do it. Yes, I know, that’s a small minority opinion. But one thing is for sure. If a nursing home is constructed in Little Washington the town will be irrevocably and forever changed in ways no one can reliably predict.

The writer lives in Flint Hill

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2 Comments

  1. I work in the industry and would love to eliminate an hour from my commute; however, my first question would be what will become of the building after the facility goes bankrupt. Nationally, communities are having difficulty staying full and it’s going to get worst. I believe too many facilities were built expecting a large wave of baby boomers. That’s not going to happen as many of that generation are entering retirement years with smaller portfolios or bankrupt. Also, good long term care policies are being phased out (if you have one I suggest reading the fine print!). Discharges for financial reasons are increasing. People are simply outliving their money. Costs are going up and labor is hard to find. I know the county has a CNA program which I believe is a great idea but there are 3 hospitals within easy driving distance that will be paying much more than an assisted living facility. My guess is that this proposed facility will be elegant and being in Little Washington will draw clients that expect five star service. That’s not going to very difficult to maintain. Expect room rates to be no less than $5,000 per month plus level of care and ancillary charges.

    What is becoming very popular in Florida is home care. Resident assistants are compensated directly or given room and board. An agency will charge a fee to match the resident with a caregiver, do background checks, and maintain records. It works out well for both parties and allows the person to stay at home. It’s much more cost effective than paying facility costs. It’s a shame homes are not designed with the elderly in mind. Single level, open showers, wheelchair accessible, etc.

    Most importantly is the safety of the residents. Have there been studies on how the county will handle emergencies and added medical transport? We have 80 residents and average 5 emergency calls each week. Can the county support that?

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