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Healthier Together

Winter 2017 issue
Assisted living: Home comforts, without the worry

Assisted living: Home comforts, without the worry


Gathering the family over the holidays might have left you wondering whether an aging relative needs more help and attention.

“We get a lot of inquiries in January because families realize a relative’s needs have grown beyond what can be managed at home,” said Mandy Dickinson, executive director of Novant Health UVA Health System Caton Merchant House, an assisted living community in Manassas, Virginia. “That could mean problems with anything from making their own meals to keeping track of their medications.”

As you explore assisted living communities, here are questions you’ll likely have.

What is assisted living?

This level of care supports the activities of daily living, including dispensing medication, bathing, dressing and toileting. Meals are provided, as well as recreational opportunities and transportation to medical appointments or errands.

Residents of Caton Merchant House, the first to provide assisted living in Manassas, are for the most part healthy. They live in their own apartments, but don’t need to worry about housekeeping, laundry or utilities.

Is Caton Merchant House a skilled nursing facility or a nursing home?

While nursing homes provide medical care and licensed nursing supervision around the clock, assisted living offers a home-like environment, with residents surrounded by their own things. Certified staff members are present 24-hours a day to assist with activities of daily living, as needed.

What are some of the special amenities offered at Caton Merchant House?

Residents can relax in front of the fireplace, on a sun porch or in the gardens by the koi pond. They can even help care for the gardens, birds and fish. Pets are welcome, if the resident can care for his or her pet. Caton Merchant House offers the convenience of on-site services and entertainment, such as a hair salon, barbershop, movie theater and fitness center.

What do residents gain from the affiliation with Novant Health UVA Health System?

Residents reap the benefits in the quality of care they receive. Coordinated nursing care is available 24 hours a day. Caregivers communicate changes in medications and treatment plans to all care staff after doctor visits or hospital stays. This provides a continuity of care typically not provided in assisted living.

An electronic health record for residents who use Novant Health UVA Health System network providers means communication is seamless and quick, whether with the physician’s office or the hospital. In Manassas, no other assisted living community is attached to acute and ambulatory facilities.

What should I look for when visiting a prospective assisted living community?

Visit as many facilities as possible, unannounced and at different times. Make sure to get a tour on the weekend or after hours from someone who is giving the care. Take note of social opportunities for residents, which should be a very important part of the community.

Ask about experience, training and staff satisfaction. A satisfied staff provides better care. Caton Merchant House operates with about one nursing assistant to every 10 to 12 residents, much lower than at many facilities.

Look up the inspection reports, and ask about any significant care issues. In Virginia, you can search online at

Questions? Contact Mandy Dickinson at 703-335-8350 or Visit for details.