I listened to the 7-hour public hearing on the Rincon del Rio seniors project before the county supervisors on my laptop while working away. There was no “boss” button to push (like the NCAA “March Madness” website), and no boss to hover over me, either.
I found it informative on numerous fronts, and I got my work done too. I learned a lot about our community, its priorities and pondered our experiences:
1. We are a retirement community, first and foremost, is what people said. The issue of jobs for our younger people — a big issue — was touched upon. But we also were reminded this project will benefit the job market in Placer County as much as our county, because it is so close to the I-80 corridor.
2. We are relying on development and real estate, first and foremost, for our western county economic development strategy. There was a brief discussion about a small farm — Jardin del Rio — that could provide some home-grown food for the Rincon del Rio residents.
But it will play a small role, at best. With the “food and farm” movement, it’s a powerful marketing tool for development — just like the farm at Loma Rica (now closed with the project in limbo).
3. We are depending on the money generated by big assisted living projects (more are in the works, such as the Litchfield project at the HEW building in Nevada City) to help our local private economy and non-profits prosper.
We are counting on some “trickle down” from these residents and developers, assuming they don’t turn left and go to Placer County instead. We also are counting on real estate sales, at least until the units are sold.
4. Most people seemed to think assisted living was a panacea for elderly people who cannot live independently, but it is really isn’t, others reminded us. Our first-hand experience confirms that. I could tell some of the people who spoke had not experienced elder care — yet.
5. Fire safety came up, including a gate that is supposed to block unwanted traffic in one direction, but break apart in the event of a fire evacuation. It reminded me of a debate that went on about the expansion of former county supervisor Crawford Bost’s property that the board also supported (Nate Beason raised some concerns, though).
In the end, the county board of supervisors said “yes” to approve certification of the EIR and General Plan amendment of the Rincon Del Rio project by a 4-1 vote. Richard Anderson of Truckee was the lone “no” vote, worried about precedent in other unincorporated areas of the county. Richard raised some cogent points.
Some people thought Grass Valley Supervisor Terry Lamphier would vote “no” too, but he faces a tough re-election campaign in “pro-development” Grass Valley, mostly likely against Mayor Dan Miller, as we’ve reported previously. Terry raised some good questions along the way.
OUR EXPERIENCE WITH ELDER CARE
The long discussion brought up our own experiences caring for our parents before they died. Assisted living “assisted” us for a time, but in the end, my mother died at our home under hospice care and my father died at a convalescent home.
We did the “heavy lifting,” albeit with no regrets. But it was the reality.
One of the reasons we moved to this area was to care for my parents as they were winding down their lives. We were very close.
Before we came here, they lived on their own in Bodega Bay, where they chose to retire. Then as they became less independent, we helped them rent a home up the street for us in San Anselmo, in Marin County.
Then when they became less independent we moved here (we wanted to escape the big city at the same time) and rented them a “patio home” in Eskaton in Grass Valley — just like what’s being proposed at Rincon del Rio.
“Families often believe these facilities will meet all of their loved ones’ needs, enabling caregivers to focus on jobs and family, only to find this isn’t the case,” as a column in the New York Times reminds us.
“Before long, the elderly residents will require more than ‘meals you don’t have to cook, grass you don’t have to cut and socialization,” Dr. Cheryl Woodson said. At that point the elderly resident is in trouble, since assisted living facilities are not permitted by law to provide medical care and consider it to be the family’s responsibility.’”
It did become our responsibility: trips to the doctor’s office, all the cooking (on weekends, we made fresh food and froze it for the week); hiring caregivers to help out, no easy task. We did all this while we were working and raising our young child.
We’re just glad we could do it in a small community, and we loved our parents and wanted to help them. It was less costly than the Bay Area too.
After our parents were no longer independent enough to live at Eskaton, they moved in with us: to a comfortable, one-bedroom “in-law” unit in the downstairs part of our house, just off the kitchen.
It was a rich experience for our son, getting to know them as best as he could at a young age. It was easier on us too, when you factored in all the driving back and forth to Eskaton.
My mother was able to stay with us until the end, thanks to hospice. My father had to be moved to a nursing home after some trips back and forth from home, to the hospital and to the nursing home.
Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital did a good job, but they will have to be factored in to any economic-development decision to build more assisted living in our community. They will need our community’s support when it comes to expansion and upgrades.
In the end, we felt good about how we had helped our parents in their final years.
Now that we’re raising our son in our community, we’re also looking for signs that he will be able to stay here after going to college and be able to find a job — a real hole in our economic development strategy. We’re haven’t seen too many signs of that, but we’ll hold out hope.
In the meantime, our son is enjoying the small community lifestyle and all the outdoor activities that go with it: running, hiking, playing outside, fishing and swimming in the lakes and rivers. We enjoy sharing that with him, and we just wound up creating our own jobs.