The wind-down is in full swing at Sterling Heights in Bishop.
The Assisted Living retirement home located on Pine Street and backing up to Bishop City Park will close for good on July 2.
The 79-bed facility currently houses just 14 seniors.
Executive Director Alicia Smith, who was brought on board in April to help close the doors, said three of those residents have been placed in Gardnerville. One is expected to move this week. Another next week.
The Sheet also spoke to family members of 95-year old World War II veteran (and Purple Heart recipient) Lloyd Young, who will be moved into his niece Gail Sharkey’s home in Bishop within the next two weeks.
Just 15 employees remain.
Smith said she is offering assistance in attempting to “rehome” employees in next jobs.
Gloria Rivera is a cook who has been working at Sterling Heights for 20 years.
Rivera said that when she first took the job, the Center was at maximum capacity. In then old days, there were two cooks working on all shifts.
These days, Rivera prepares all three meals on Fridays and Saturdays.
Jesus Hernandez has been at Sterling Heights a little more than a year. He also works part-time at Amigos Restaurant and may take on more hours there once Sterling Heights closes.
Trudi and Rick Lee are a husband/wife team which has each worked at Sterling Heights for approximately ten years. Trudi serves as the Activities Director while Rick’s duties were listed as maintenance, transportation and caregiving, but really, said Trudi, everyone is a jack-of-all-trades of sorts, cross-trained in many different areas.
The Lees are both in their 60s and may retire once the facility closes, but “We’ve had offers to do other things,” says Trudi.
Pre-pandemic, Trudi estimated that the facility was about half-full, but the pandemic has thinned the population significantly. Not because of a Covid outbreak – Smith says Sterling Heights has been Covid-free over the past 14 months – but because of: 1. The facility was unable to admit new residents during the pandemic – never mind the restrictions on visitation. 2. The facility by its very nature is transitory. It’s not like the movie Cocoon, and there is no fountain of youth. Once residents decline to a certain point, they’re moved to a more full-service place.
*A Sheet source said the Bishop Care Center has experienced a similar drop in resident population. That 99-bed facility is said to currently have just 44 residents. The Sheet was unable to reach Bishop Care Center Administrator Thomas Mead to confirm.
While Ms. Smith was mum as to providing a reason for the closure by owner Sierra Country Club, Inc., she did mention “years of struggle.”
95-year old Lloyd Young, however, may have inadvertently spilled the beans.
Young, who has lived at Sterling Heights for the past 14 years, grew up in Bishop. He enlisted for WWII at the age of 17, and participated in eight invasions in the Pacific theater, including Guadalcanal and Okinawa.
Post-service, he made a professional career as a technical artist for companies such as Boeing and Firestone.
One claim to fame: He designed the first Mule Days belt buckle.
Anyway, Young let drop that “Every room leaks,” and that his room in particular, “leaks like a sieve.”
Maybe that’s why some parts of the floor of his room have a bit of a warp.
And makes one wonder what else might be going on with the building, which Smith said was built in the mid-1970s.
What’s interesting is that in the company’s press release announcing the closure a few weeks back, it states, “Like many businesses, [Sterling Heights has] been hit hard with both staffing losses and increasing costs of running the building.”
And certainly, deferred maintenance can make things mighty expensive
Young currently pays $3,200/month.
Family members said the reason he is moving in with them (versus heading over to the Care Center) is because if one doesn’t qualify for MediCal, the Care Center cost would be triple what Young is currently paying.
Young’s Grand-Niece Jamie Moore said her grandmother lived at Sterling Heights before passing away at 98. “The staff is great,” she remarked.
While some left as soon as the closure was announced, folks like Trudi Lee are committed to the end. “We’re here for the residents,” she declared.
At least for the next six weeks.