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$75,000 Needed : Seniors' Home Lacks Funds, Faces Closure

December 18, 1988|KARL KAHLER | Times Staff Writer

A nonprofit home for elderly people who suffer from memory loss will be closed unless it can raise $75,000 for a down payment on the 4-bedroom house in which it operates.

The woman who opened the board and care facility, Linda Laisure, 42, has been renting the house at 1020 Rose Ave. in Venice for a year. But now the house is up for sale, and she wants to buy it so her elderly clients won't be uprooted.

The four residents of the home range in age from 79 to 94, and all suffer from memory loss stemming from strokes, Alzheimer's disease or other disorders. They require supervision to make sure they take their medicine and to keep them from wandering away.

The owner of the house, Stella Johnson, is selling the property to settle the estate of her husband, who died in a private plane crash last month.

"I just like what Linda is doing, and I wish she could buy it," Johnson said.

$2,200 Payments

Laisure said the mortgage on the house would be $2,200 a month, which she could afford, but the $75,000 down payment is beyond her means. Johnson said she needs a commitment from Laisure by mid-January.

If the home closes, Laisure said, the four elderly women will have to be placed in institutions that she believes are less personal and that tend to have proportionally fewer staff members .

"There's a lot of warmth and love in this home," she said. "Their needs are met right away, not a half-hour, not two hours later."

The facility is known as H.O.M.E.--Helping Our Mobile Elderly. It has four staff members, three of them full time. Large facilities, Laisure said, have one staff member for every six to 12 patients.

"There's very little out there for intermediate care--it's either a retirement home or a nursing home," Laisure said. "These women don't need nursing, but they need more assistance than a retirement home provides."

'Family Feeling'

Tina Horn, coordinator of a program for senior citizens at Santa Monica Hospital, has visited the home several times and recommended it to families that could no longer care for older relatives.

"It's wonderful," she said. "I am always very touched every time I go there, because I've had so much exposure to seniors in locked facilities. . . . I've seen them in environments that are so negative. The H.O.M.E. has a family feeling, a lot of warmth, a lot of caring. It's not institutionalized. It's very special."

Evelyn Igdaloff, niece of resident Jeanette Rubenstein, said: "The care there is superb. I cannot praise it highly enough for what it's doing for the particular type of people it's catering to."

Laisure, who completed a 2-year program in gerontology at UCLA, opened the home a year ago after seeing the conditions in for-profit facilities. In some of them, she said, the elderly were treated like children. When she went to visit one woman, she said, she found her tied to a wheelchair with a bed sheet.

"Women with memory loss function at a higher level in a small setting," Laisure said. "There's less confusion. It's not overstimulating, and you can focus on the people's needs right then and there in a small place."

Laisure became interested in the plight of people with memory loss when her neighbor, Dot Eigen, wandered from her home and was lost for two days. She was found by police, given a mental evaluation and placed in a mental hospital, where she spent five years.

That ended when Laisure opened her facility in November, 1987. Eigen, now 94, was one of her first two clients.

The charge to most clients is $1,800 a month. Laisure keeps one bed reserved for a low-income client, who is charged $592 a month.

Regular activities include exercise and dance, painting and ceramics, daily walks, trips to day centers for the elderly and visits by 2- to 4-year-olds from a nearby child care center.

"Most people have elderly relatives, and they can relate to this kind of situation happening to them," Laisure said. "We have definitely got to face the fact that our population is growing older, and we're not providing enough alternatives for them.

"It would be a shame that the model we're trying to provide for people to live with dignity, warmth and love could be lost. We are providing a model, and because of finances, it could end."

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