Legacy Lodge

JuliAnne Thomas, right, visits her mother, A.J. Walter, outside the older woman’s room at Legacy Lodge in late March. Thomas had been visiting her mother outside her room almost every day since the assisted living facility restricted access due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Legacy Lodge’s parent company, Nye Health Services, said Wednesday that the facility would close March 31.

Legacy Lodge is closing.

Nye Health Services, which owns the assisted living facility, announced on Wednesday it would close Legacy Lodge by March 31, forcing residents to find new accommodations in the midst of a pandemic.

“I don’t know if there’s any good time to make this decision,” CEO Russ Peterson told the Jackson Hole Daily.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been one of the hardest-hit sectors during the coronavirus pandemic. A large proportion of deaths have been seen in the facilities across the nation, which, combined with regulations limiting family visitation, have created significant financial stress.

Legacy Lodge — which has just 36 of its 57 apartments filled, Peterson said — was hurt by those forces, as families opted not to put their loved ones into the facility. That exacerbated a trend Legacy Lodge has seen for years of not having enough residents to make ends meet.

Some people on social media decried the timing of the closure, but Peterson said his company simply couldn’t maintain the financial losses from the facility. Administrators had hoped the pandemic would pass, or at least ease, by now, but with the end still months off at a minimum, keeping Legacy Lodge open was no longer financially tenable, Peterson said.

Wyoming law mandates a 30-day notice, so Nye Health asked that residents find new placement by Feb. 15, though it will keep the doors open until the end of March for those who struggle to find a new facility.

With COVID-19 still spreading widely and only one other facility in Jackson — St. John’s Health’s Living Center — some families think the timing is tight.

“It’s just really going to be difficult,” said Connie Owen, whose mother lives at Legacy Lodge.

Owen lives in a one-bedroom place and her 97-year-old mother has dementia, so moving in together isn’t an option. Owen called St. John’s to inquire about placement, but she said Wednesday afternoon she hadn’t heard back.

“I think they’re probably scrambling to figure this out because probably 35 people have called them today,” Owen said of the Living Center.

For its part, St. John’s isn’t entirely sure how many of the displaced residents it can take. Chief Communications Officer Karen Connelly said the Living Center does have some open beds because they weren’t actively trying to max out capacity with the impending move to Sage Living on the horizon.

Not every Legacy Lodge resident may qualify, however, because the Living Center doesn’t offer assisted living services.

“We have started to talk to some of those families about setting up a time to meet with them to see if programs that we offer are going to be appropriate for what their loved ones’ needs are,” Connelly said Wednesday.

Nye Health, a Nebraska-based company, will help families relocate as best it can, Peterson said, calling it the “No. 1 priority.” Staffers have been calling facilities within a 75-mile-or-so radius to see if they have space, and any resident willing to move to Nebraska is welcome to a bed in one of Nye’s facilities there, he said. Ultimately, however, the responsibility for finding new accommodations is on the families.

Though the decision had to be made, Peterson said, he recognizes the bind families have been put in.

“My heart goes out to all the families and residents,” he said. “It’s just an extremely difficult situation.”

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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