The Laurels has been a fixture in Harlan County for decades, but many are unaware of the nature of the facility and the benefits available for its residents.
Laurels Administrator David Mullins said The Laurels was incorporated in 1965.
“Before then, it was a hospital,” Mullins said. “It was one of the oldest hospitals in the county.”
Mullins said at one time, the facility was considered a “poorhouse,” where residents grew and farmed their own food.
With the 1965 incorporation, the facility took on its current incarnation as a personal care home.
“It was set up to be run by a board of directors,” Mullins said. “Originally the county ran it, but it was such a big job they turned it over to a board of directors.”
According to Mullins, a personal care home is similar in some ways to an assisted living facility, but there are differences.
“It’s different from any other facility,” Mullins explained. “In a personal care home, you have to be able to get up and take care of yourself, move around and feed yourself. In a nursing home, you’re completely bedridden.”
Assistant Administrator Helen Smith added The Laurels is not an assisted living facility.
“Here, we provide all meals, do all the laundry and we try to make them feel at home,” Smith said.
Mullins explained The Laurels is non-profit, has a doctor and nurse on staff as well as a dietitian who oversees the meals. The facility is subject to unannounced inspections by the state, and must maintain about 75 residents in order to break even. The facility now houses approximately 64 people.
Mullins explained a state program which provides grant money for people to provide care for people in their homes rather than in a facility such as The Laurels has impacted the facilities bottom line.
Smith added while many people may benefit from being taken out of a personal care facility, there are some residents who cannot make it on their own.
“We have been told by the state inspectors that we are one of the nicest homes in the state of Kentucky,” Mullins said.
Mullins explained The Laurels is having a tough time financially due to a drop in residency caused by factors such as the grant program and the current economic downturn in the region.
The Laurels Board of Directors member Ryan Creech confirmed times are tight at The Laurels.
“It’s a numbers game,” Creech said. “We just need more people. Part of the problem is I don’t think a lot of people know what The Laurels does. A lot of people think of it as a nursing home. It’s not, it’s a personal care home. I think people would be surprised if they went out there and saw how clean the place is, how well maintained it is and how great the people are. You can spend all day just talking to the residents themselves. It’s another one of those hidden gems that we’ve got that we can’t keep hidden anymore.”
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley also commented on the facility.
“The Laurels has been a staple of our community for many years,” Mosley said. “The county owns the property and it’s run by a non-profit board that oversees the day to day operations. The staff do a wonderful job…Those people have been dedicated to their jobs even in times when they’ve not had benefits.”
Mosley said the facility operates on a shoestring budget.
“Several years ago, they did an expansion project and borrowed some money to build on at a time when they had a waiting list of people waiting to move in,” Mosley explained. “They built on and did fill up at the time, but as time has gone on the number of residents has gone down. When the number of residents went down, it made it difficult to be able to service the debt associated with that expansion.”
Mosley said hopefully more people will consider living at The Laurels.
“It’s our hope that more people who are on a fixed income and looking for a place to go where they can still come and go as they please will consider The Laurels as an option,” Mosley said. “It’s a personal care home…people can come and go as they please, they can get three good meals a day and have someone looking out for them.”
Mosley suggested the facility may even be a fit for some folks currently living on their own.
“We hope that people that are independent and maybe live on their own that are looking for people to socialize and network with will consider The Laurels as an option,” Mosley said. “They have an activities coordinator who coordinates things for the residents to do. Every time I go out there, the residents are pleasant, they enjoy themselves…and enjoy the company of people that are close to the same age.”
Anyone interested in The Laurels may contact the facility at 606-573-5105. The Laurels is located at 169 County Pike, Harlan, Kentucky, 40831, in the Teetersville community.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde.