Reprinted by permission of The Llano News, October 2008
Owners of Llano’s first assisted living facility – Walden Court – say construction on their new 23,000-plus square foot operation will be completed inside and out by Saturday (Nov. 1).
Then, says Linda Theiss (pronounced “Tice”), who owns the new facility with her husband-builder Wayne, “we anticipate that we’ll be fully open and welcoming residents by the end of November.” The actual opening dates depend on two mandatory state inspections and approvals, both aimed at ensuring the evacuation safety of residents.
The first inspection should occur in early November and once approved, will provide the OK for three individuals to take up residency. The second, which is expected to follow shortly thereafter, will authorize Walden Court to fully open its 28 apartments, accommodating a maximum of 36 persons. Until those approvals are in hand, the state license is pending.
The facility – comprised of 20 studios for single occupancy and eight one-bedrooms, which will accommodate double occupancy – were built by Maco Construction of Houston, a firm for whom Wayne has worked for many years. On this project, Wayne was project manager.
What, exactly, is assisted living? Usually, it’s a place for individuals who are having difficulty with activities of their daily living, says Theiss, adding that – at its best – it’s a place where people can keep their dignity, have quality of life and their independence.
“Our philosophy is that our role is not to ‘do for’ but to ‘assist with’ each resident’s identified needs,” Theiss says. That philosophy, she believes, supports the resident’s independence and promotes dignity.
“It’s a home-like atmosphere with activities of daily living,” says Theiss. “That’s what we’ll have here at Walden Court.” Residents bring their own furniture and their own pictures to go on the walls of their apartment. Sometime they bring their car. It’s their home. What it is not, she says, is a nursing home, where skilled care is necessary.
Walden Court’s interior promises to be family-friendly, with a living room area large enough for families to gather and a family kitchen for preparing and hosting family dinners. Also included on-site are a beauty/barber shop, library, wellness room and activities such as cooking classes using family recipes, bridge, exercise options, and other activities in the planning. The beginning level of care is $2,775 for a studio apartment.
Residents at Walden Court – so named because Linda is a great admirer of Henry David Thoreau, who wrote “Walden Pond – will get help as necessary with their daily needs, including assistance with administering medications, bathing and grooming, and other services. Help will be available around the clock, Theiss says, with a crew of 11 staff initially, increasing to between 14 – 19 when there is full occupancy.
“Also, some older people are lonely, especially if they’ve lost a spouse, and they’d like to live where there are more activities, more companions. Assisted living can be an option for them,” Theiss says.
Theiss has worked in social work for 15 years, since earning her bachelor’s degree in social work in the mid-90’s. For the past nine years, she’s worked in the assisted living field, including in Dallas with a large national organization. “I learned from the best,” says Theiss, “and I’m bringing all that knowledge to my organization here in Llano.”
The difference, however, is that “those were large facilities. What I really enjoy is working at the smaller facilities where you get to know the clients well, and their families – it’s more like a home atmosphere,” says Theiss.
The one-story building sits on the crest of a hill on about two acres, at 701 E. Young St., on the east side of Llano facing Hwy. 29. The stone and stucco building is square shaped, with some rooms facing a central courtyard, which has a waterfall as part of its landscaped view. Exterior rooms have a view of the city lights at night or of the nearby rolling hills. Residents must be at least 55 years old to live at Walden Court.
Theiss hopes to draw clients from areas north and west of Llano, with about a 60-mile arc. This will include San Saba, Mason, Brady and other towns in those areas. Walden Court will provide an assisted living option for people in those cities, who wish to be closer to their families than facilities in Fredericksburg, Kingsland, or Burnet County might allow, says Theiss.
“I applaud the older generation,” Theiss says. “They paved the way for us. Taking care of them is my heart’s passion.”
“The Lord chose Llano,” says Linda, explaining that deciding to build here was the answer to a three-year prayer. “I was driving to Austin, when I just felt I should turn around and go back to Llano – and I found this beautiful property.” The Theisses bought the property in 2007 and began construction in winter of 2008. Landscaping is being handled by Highland Lakes Image Scapes of Llano, owned by Dustin McLeod.
“We are very excited to be a new member of the Llano community,” says Linda, who with her husband bought property in Mason in 2000 and built a home on the Llano River. “We had lived in the Dallas area for a long time. It just got too busy … a rat race. People in small towns are so much friendlier. You actually know your neighbors!
Linda believes she and her husband will likely move closer to Llano, although moving personally has not been her priority recently. She’s been extremely busy getting her new venture here built and ready to open. “And the city and the Chamber have been so helpful,” she says. “We really appreciate them.”
Editor's Note: Wayne and Linda Theiss live in Mason County, just below the James River, Llano River bridge, and are also the owners of the Dos Rios RV Park at that location. Dustin McLeod of Highland Lakes Imagescapes is a Mason High School graduate.