Arvada senior community ‘not just a place to live’

New regulations, competitive market bring changes to assisted living


For new employees at MorningStar of Arvada, a senior living community, one day of employee training doesn’t cut it — the new hires quickly become experts after a weeklong process of training sessions, informational classes on dementia and at least three days of shadowing another employee.

Such an extensive process may come as no surprise, given how much the process is required to cover as per the Department of Public Health and Environment’s Standards for Hospitals and Health Facilities, which were updated roughly a year ago. All staff members and volunteers must take courses, “at a minimum,” on residents’ rights, staff hygiene, emergency response, person-centered care and incident reporting — to name a few of more than 20 courses.

The update was the first of its kind since the 1980s, Shannon Gimbel said. Gimbel is the Ombudsman Manager with the Denver Regional Council of Government’s Area Agency on Aging (AAA), which serves to provide information to prospective residents and advocate for residents when issues arise. Gimbel was also on the board that wrote the new regulations.

“The regulations hadn’t been touched since a time when assisted living was just helping with showering and meals,” she said. “The landscape really shifted, and the regulations were far behind.”

The extensive training MorningStar has in place, have impressed residents so much that some have gotten involved and attended training sessions themselves, said Executive Director Cheryl Davis.

“We really attempt to get to know our residents well. They have been very impressed with our hospitality and customer service,” she said.

Residents Bill and Kay Hemingway, who moved into MorningStar in February, likewise praised the facility’s hospitality and “outstanding” employee training.

“They make residents feel important,” Kay Hemingway said.

Developed by MorningStar Senior Living and Confluent Senior Living, MorningStar of Arvada opened in February at 17351 W. 64th Ave. The 160,000-square-foot community boasts 141 suites, with 29 designated as Memory Care suites, and a number of amenities such as a fitness center, theater, massage and therapy rooms and an art studio.

The community joins approximately 34 other senior living centers in Arvada, Gimbel said, with many centers moving into Arvada and Jefferson County over the past decade or so. The increase in supply has prompted the communities to boost their competitiveness in the marketplace, both by advertising more affordable pricing and more amenities.

With so many choices, she said, it’s important for families to research facilities and to call resources like the AAA to find those that best fit residents’ needs, and go above and beyond what regulations mandate.

To be sure, there are a number of communities that do so, she said.

Since its opening, MorningStar of Arvada has strived to be one of those high-caliber facilities, said John Reinsma, managing director of Confluent Senior Living.

The community has joined the race to rise to the top of the Colorado market, offering far more programs and activities than the Hemingways were expecting, they said.

With the space opening up just as the couple was looking for a place to move, they were drawn to MorningStar, eager to get involved in a brand-new community.

“One of the appeals was that all of the people would be moving in at about the same time,” Bill said. “There’s a wonderful group of people here who come from all over the country.”

The couple bonded quickly with other residents, they said, while also getting outside of MorningStar too.

“We do a lot outside, and there are outings to lunches and dinners,” Kay said. “And when we’re here, there are games and programs. You can be as active as you wish, or you can stay in your apartment.”

MorningStar offers a specialized program for residents with dementia or other memory impairment, providing “a structured day and a secured environment” either with a staff member or in a group, Kay said.

The community has been the perfect place for their family members to visit, the Hemingways said, with their three children coming by often and their granddaughter working a summer job as a member of the center’s wait-staff.

“All three of our children have said, `Mom, how can we move in here?’’” Kay said. “We plan to stay here as long as we can.”


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