For decades, Utah’s aging veterans who needed full-time care lived in a geriatric wing at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Salt Lake City, if not in a civilian nursing home.
Now the state is finishing the last of four nursing homes that give aging and disabled veterans — as well as their spouses — an even better choice.
New 108-bed nursing homes are being dedicated this month and next in Ivins and Payson, the last of those planned for the foreseeable future.
The new homes should serve Utah’s needs for decades, said Terry Schow, who retires next month as executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs.
About 80 percent of Utah’s veterans live between Ogden and Provo, but the two new homes will serve large geographic areas of the state. The Ivins home will serve veterans in nine counties in southern Utah, and the Payson home will accommodate veterans from throughout central Utah.
The homes are built with a combination of federal and state dollars, and boosters have raised $300,000 in southern Utah and $150,000 in Utah County to improve amenities for the veterans.
For instance, “We want them to have the finest mattresses available,” said Dennis McFall, deputy director of the Utah department.
The city of Ivins donated 10 acres for the southern Utah home, and the LDS Church’s Farmland Reserves Inc. donated the 10 acres for the Payson home.
An unexpectedly high water table on the latter property, however, raised the cost of building in Payson by $500,000, McFall said.
The homes are a good deal for veterans, Schow said. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays roughly half the cost for a veteran’s care, leaving the monthly expense at $2,100 to $2,200.
Those who can’t afford it typically pay less, and veterans who need care because of a service-related disability pay nothing.
Because of new VA directives, all the rooms in the new homes are private.
Utah’s first home, the William E. Christofferson Veterans Nursing Home on the VA campus, opened in 1998. The George E. Wahlen Ogden Veterans Home opened in 2010.
Two ribbon cuttings
Utah’s two newest veterans nursing homes have scheduled their dedication ceremonies. A ribbon will be cut for the home in Ivins at 1 p.m. Thursday, May23, and the Payson home will be dedicated at 1 p.m. on June 6.