Celebrating Veterans Day
By Kathleen Reynolds -
Do you know a veteran? Their special day is coming up on November 11. At the end of their military service, many live contentedly at the Veterans Home of California, Yountville.
These approximately 650 men and women heroes represent the dark days of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, along with vets who served in times of peace.
How will they celebrate their big day?
“Our Veterans Day at the Home is really two weeks of activities,” says Joshua Kiser, Veterans Home Public Information Officer. “On November 3, our home members will enjoy a gourmet lunch prepared by local celebrity chefs for the 17th Annual Celebrity Chef’s Luncheon, hosted by the Yountville Chamber of Commerce. On November 7, members of the Memorial Squadron will perform a flyover of the Home. November 11, the Home will have a virtual ceremony, followed by activities during lunch and a stand-up comedian will provide entertainment in the afternoon.”
Kiser says that Home members and staff continue to practice infection control protocols, including wearing face coverings, physical distancing, increased hand washing, temperature checks, screening of staff and residents upon entry to their facility and continued use of protective equipment.
“I think the overall mood is positive and everyone is thankful that the Home has remained a safe space for our home members during the pandemic,” says Kiser. “We are very appreciative of the hard work of our staff and the understanding and cooperation of our home members and their families.”
Despite COVID restrictions, the Veterans Home administration and Allied Council strive to make living there as fun-filled and relaxed as possible. They do this while still providing residential care, intermediate care, skilled nursing and a “Memory Care Center” for residents with forms of dementia.
“Our therapeutic activities department has provided an array of fun and safe activities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have held many outdoor activities to celebrate holidays such as Cinco De Mayo and the Fourth of July. They also held/organized outdoor bingo, bocce ball and recently the Home’s bell choir, affectionately called the Ding-A-Lings, began practicing again outdoors.”
Recently the Veterans Home of California, Yountville received a 2021 Bronze American Health Care Association (AHCA)/ National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) National Quality Award. The Home was recently voted one of America’s Best Nursing Homes in California by Newsweek Magazine for the third consecutive year.
The Home’s annual operating budget is $47 million, half of which comes from the California general fund and the remainder by other sources such as federal reimbursements, member fees and citizens.
The Veterans Home in Yountville was founded and purchased in 1882 on land that was part of Salvador Vallejo’s Napa Rancho. The land was purchased with funds from public donations. It was a farm and continued to operate as one while the administration building was being completed in 1883.
Original operating funds came from state and federal sources until 1900 when the state of California purchased the 910 acres of land and its 55 buildings from the federal government.
This past spring, the California Department of General Services unveiled plans to construct a $269 million, 240-bed skilled nursing and memory care center as part of a master campus plan announced in 2019. The project is being built for the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet).
The new 300,000-square-foot, five-story facility will provide long-term care to about 1,000 aged or disabled veterans, including support for residents with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injuries. The design will be like the Home’s current architectural style.
The Veterans Home wasn’t immune to the construction chaos caused by the pandemic.
“The skilled nursing facility project is making progress and the hope is that construction will start soon,” explains Kiser of the facility, originally planned to be completed by 2023.
Approximately 80 to 100 new staff will be added for the new nursing facility, adding to the approximately 950 workers usually employed at the Home. Kiser says that the Home is currently actively recruiting new employees to join the Yountville Veterans Home team and job postings are available at calvet.ca.gov/jobs.
The rambling Mission-style buildings with their terra cotta roofs, high on the hills west of Yountville are popular to California’s veterans interested in retiring. This can add to the waiting time for acceptance to the Home.
“The time it takes to be admitted to the Home is based on a number of factors including level of care needed, medical information and current living situation,” says Kiser. “Waiting list timelines can vary depending on the level of care needed.”
To find out more about admission to the Home and the application process visit calvet.ca.gov/calvet-programs/veteran-homes or contact the Veterans Home of California, Yountville admission department at 707-944-4601.