- Associated Press - Saturday, December 2, 2017

ALTAVISTA, Va. (AP) - For most of her childhood, Kathy Davis called a small house in Altavista home. Years later, she has opened the doors of that home to others who no longer can live alone due to old age.

With the help of her family, Davis, 47, transformed her parents’ former home on a quiet residential street into a small-scale senior-living facility that cares for elderly patients who need around-the-clock care but want to maintain a home-like living arrangement.

“It’s a great need in our community,” said Davis, who graduated nursing school in 2010. “A lot of the elderly don’t want to go into a long-term facility, and here they’ll have more one-on-one care with home-cooked meals, and it’s just a good environment.”

Called Davis Home, the facility is equipped with three rooms for residents and their belongings, two handicapped-accessible bathrooms, a dining area, a ramp up to the front door and a living area for residents to socialize or watch TV. With more individualized care that comes from the smaller environment, Davis aimed to create a “home away from home” space for clients in her care.

As a previous employee in larger senior-care facilities, Davis said it is much harder to provide individualized care when each nurse is responsible for numerous patients.

“In one of those large facilities you’ve got 15 people or more, you’ve got showers to give, you have to get them to the dining room, they have to be fed, so there’s just a lot you have to do,” she said. “In the dining room, if they don’t like what they have they don’t eat as well, but here in a smaller environment you are able to give them what they want.”

Working with a staff of two other certified nursing assistants - including her daughter Kiara Davis - Kathy Davis maintains complete patient medical charts like larger facilities do, and everyone on staff is CPR-certified in case of an emergency.

Davis Home is a licensed business in Altavista, but because Davis‘ facility only can house three or fewer residents, it does not need a license from the Virginia Department of Social Services.

Melany Gray, the grand-niece of Davis Home’s only current resident, Hilda Murrie, said she moved Murrie to Davis House after a strong recommendation from a hospice provider in Lynchburg.

“We felt that she would be better served by more individual attention,” said Gray, who lives in New York. “She’s always been a very dynamic, charming person, and as she’s gotten older it’s harder for strangers to see that person, so the opportunity to have her in a smaller place where she could be cared for by people who really knew her would enable for more of her inner self to shine.”

While Gray was not looking for a cheaper care option for her great-aunt when she moved Murrie to Davis Home from a larger Lynchburg facility, she said she was “pleasantly surprised” to find Davis Home was more reasonably priced.

According to Davis, her business does not take Medicare because she is not a licensed facility through DSS due to its small size.

Murrie, who has dementia and other health problems, previously served as a secretary in the Foreign Service and traveled the world during her career. After she retired, she made it her habit to travel from college town to college town, auditing courses and experiencing new things. Because of her adventurous life, Gray said Murrie never married or had any children.

“No matter how much we love her from New York, it doesn’t give her a lot of her day-to-day quality of life,” Gray said. “It took something of a leap of faith as a far-away family member to make such a nontraditional change, but Kathy particularly and her new home came so highly recommended.”

According to the Central Virginia Alliance for Community Living, a nonprofit that assists seniors and adults with disabilities, the expansion of smaller senior-care environments like Davis Home allows for more quality care in the area.

“Any time there are more options for people to live in an environment that’s home-like and that can give them the support that they need to live the life they choose, we think it’s great,” CVACL’s Director of Community Impact Betty Brickhouse said.

Davis Home also does “respite care,” which means Davis will care for elderly patients for a short period of time if that person’s typical family caregivers need to go out of town or otherwise cannot take care of the client.

For Davis, elderly care always has beena passion. In nursing school she specialized in geriatric care because as a child of older parents she spent a lot of time around adults much older than her.

“My mom had me at the age of 40, so she’s 87, so I’ve been around the elderly a lot,” Davis said. “I think that’s where my love comes in. I have also had to care for a lot of older family members.”

While her business is still getting up and running, Davis still works occasionally at the Centra Hospice House, which cares for patients in the last six months of their lives. Although she witnesses a lot of death in her job caring for older patients, Davis said she enjoys providing care for those patients and making them comfortable.

“Sometimes it’s hard, but they have to be taken care of,” she said. “To me, end-of-life care is very important and for those people to be able to live and do what they want to do at that stage of life.”

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