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New Wellington House Offers Levels of Care

July 11, 2008

By Jennifer L. Boen, The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Jul. 11–New housing has been a haven of help, hope and improved health for Cheri Finton, a Fort Wayne woman with multiple health problems including osteoporosis.

Wellington House, an eight-unit efficiency apartment complex and a hybrid of independent living, home care and assisted living, opened in early June at 1232 Maumee Ave. near downtown Fort Wayne.

Although just 53 years old, Finton landed in a nursing home rehabilitation unit because of a broken hip and pelvis. When she was well enough to be discharged — but still not well enough to live without help — she began searching for affordable alternatives.

“The day before my insurance ran out, we got a flier about this place,” Finton said as her dog, Sadie, enthusiastically licked her face. Pets under 20 pounds are allowed at Wellington House as long as their owners can provide adequate care.

Amy Huser and her husband, Ty, bought the building three years ago and initially turned it into apartments for students at neighboring Indiana Tech. Before that, the building had been a Masonic temple and then abandoned for a time.

When the university began requiring non-commuter students to live on campus, the Husers had to find another use for their investment.

Amy Huser was working as a nursing assistant in long-term care at the time and saw the need for affordable housing for seniors or those with disabilities who did not necessarily qualify for a nursing home and couldn’t afford private assisted living but who needed some assistance and someone to “regularly check in on them.

“The more research I did, the more I realized there was a need for something like this,” she said.

Her oldest child was getting ready to head off to college at the time, majoring in pre-med.

“I said, ‘You go to med school and become a doctor, and I’ll go to nursing school.’” Huser, now a hybrid of her own making that includes personal attendant, chauffer, scheduler, nurse aide and case manager, will graduate next spring with a nursing degree from Ivy Tech.

The last of the Indiana Tech students moved out in May, in time for the Husers to do some refurbishing, including adding a wheelchair- accessible shower in one first-floor apartment.

All eight units, half of which are occupied, have bedrooms set off from the living room/kitchen area by a partial wall. A refrigerator, microwave and all utilities are included in the $580 monthly rent, as are weekly cleaning and laundering of bed linens. Local phone, cable TV and Internet service also are included in the cost.

“At that price many who live here qualify for food stamps, Medicaid (medical care) and transportation services,” Huser said.

Staff is on-site about eight hours a day, and bedtime assistance is available as needed. For a fee of $5 for 15 minutes, Huser and two certified nursing assistants will do such things as take residents to the doctor, schedule appointments and assist with meals. Huser does blood pressure checks.

“We can maximize the time, doing several things,” she said. “We don’t sit for an hour waiting for the laundry to dry.” Cost to do personal laundry is $1 a pound.

Once Huser is a licensed nurse, she will be able to provide a few more complicated medical services at higher rates, but she doesn’t want to take more medically complex residents because of the licensing involved. In the future, she may apply for a classification that would allow Medicaid to cover some services for qualifying residents.

Because Wellington House’s second floor is accessible only by stairs, residents living on that floor must be able to climb steps. The building, which is nonsmoking, includes keyless entry, 24-hour video surveillance and four parking spots. The closest bus stop is on East Washington Boulevard, on the other side of Indiana Tech.

And despite the steady noise of traffic along Maumee, which bothers Finton some, “I love it here,” she said, noting if it weren’t for Wellington House, “I don’t know where I’d be.”

“They’re so good to me here. They really look after you. I’m doing so much better than when I came.”

Wellington House isn’t for everyone, Huser said. “But there is a niche for this. People can afford this on their Social Security. This is helping them maintain that level of independence and of dignity that is so important.”

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Copyright (c) 2008, The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind.

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