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It doesn’t take long to fill a unit in the community living centers at the Tomah Veterans Administration Hospital.

“The minute you have an opening, it’s filled,” said Tomah VA director Victoria Brahm.

To meet the increasing demand, the VA is adding capacity. VA officials conducted a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for two additional buildings that will house 20 veterans in what VA engineering supervisor Marvin Schaitel described as a “home-like” setting. Completion for the $7 million project is set for May 2019.

“This enhances the continuing mission of providing quality and compassionate care for every veteran,” Schaitel said.

The first two community living centers at the Tomah VA were built in 2014.

“These two were so beautiful and so successful,” Brahm said. “We felt we had the right property and the right space, so we decided to build two more.”

Each building houses 10 veterans in what the VA calls “small houses.” The residents require varying degrees of care that necessitate on-site caregivers but don’t require round-the-clock nursing services.

Brahm said the facilities follow the “Green House” concept, in which residents take ownership of the living arrangements. Residents help decide what meals are served and often help in food preparation.

“They have a lot of freedom,” Brahm said. “They come and go as they want. It’s like living in their own little neighborhood.”

Residents have their own rooms with a private bathroom and eat in a communal dining area. Living areas are specifically designed to conceal medical devices. For example, she said anyone who needs oxygen would have their oxygen tank placed behind a cupboard.

“We work very hard at hiding anything that looks institutional,” Brahm said.

She described the facilities as” very pleasant places” for people who served their country to live out their remaining years. She said feedback from residents who moved into the first two homes has been “phenomenal.”

“This is just like at being at home,” Brahm said. “They love where they live.”

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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