Published on Page 3 of Sept. 15 issue of The Laurens County Advertiser.
Laurens , S.C. – It was not by accident but with a great deal of effort that Laurens Memorial Home was able to get through the first surge of COVID in 2020 without a single case of the virus, and even now there are only three staff and residents still quarantined after three others have recovered.
But the assisted living facility has not come through the pandemic unscathed.
“I’ve been telling people we didn’t necessarily get hit with the COVID virus but the COVID financial bug got us,” said Board of Directors Chairman Rut Jacks. “We had approximately 40 residents and went down to a low of 20 residents, so our revenue was cut in half.”
The staff and board of Laurens Memorial Home worked to prevent outbreaks last year by refusing visitors, but it also didn’t accept new residents for several months.
“We didn’t want to run the risk of bringing the virus in with new residents so we didn’t take new people for awhile,” said Assistant Director Sarah Dixon. “Then when someone progressed to needing skilled nursing care, we had to move them to a different location because we are only licensed by DHEC as assisted living.”
Those low numbers of residents and the fact that the Memorial Home covers cost of medicines were major stresses on the reserve fund which had been painstakingly built up over the years.
“A year and a half ago we had $50,000 in our reserve fund – our fund set aside for a rainy day,” Jacks said. “Well, during COVID it rained. It rained every day.”
The facility’s primary funding comes through Medicaid and the state’s Optional State Supplemental funds, which are now delayed by 90 to 120 days, Jacks said, and facilities depending on them are told that’s also due to the virus.
“That has definitely contributed to the problem,” said board member and Vice Chair William Adair.
Added to that a $30,000 increase in insurance costs this year and it’s become a struggle to make payroll some months.
“It’s a ripple effect that has caused this,” Jacks said, noting that currently there are 30 residents.
“We are licensed for 50 and if we have 38 or 40 residents, we can cover expenses if we are also getting donations,” Jacks said, adding that many regular monthly and annual donors and supporting churches have slowed or halted giving.
Founded in 1886, the Laurens Memorial Home has a long history of caring for those who have slipped through the cracks. When it was created 156 years ago, it was considered the Poor House for the county, but 21 years ago Laurens County Council opted to disengage it from the county umbrella. Now it’s an independent non-profit which gets no local government funds.
While residents rely on Medicaid, Jacks said in no way have they always depended on governmental assistance throughout their lives. Many have college degrees and have had successful careers but retirement can be tough financially, especially without family members to help.
“When my husband died in 2012, I lived alone and my two daughters had died, but I didn’t come because people told me it wasn’t a good place,” said Donna Simmons, who moved recently from Clinton. “I love it. I should have come sooner.”
Dixon said if there are people who want to see where their donations are going, she welcomes unannounced visitors.
“You can call from the parking lot because I don’t want people to think we clean up just for visitors.” Dixon said. “This is how we run it every day.”
Anyone can call Dixon for more details on how to help at 864-682-2322, and checks can be sent to Laurens Memorial Home, P.O. Box 638, Laurens, SC 29360.