Long-Term Care in Long Beach

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News November 2015

The VA's first West Coast long-term care facility for veterans with SCI/D is being hailed by residents and PVA

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Lyndon Wells considers himself one of a lucky few in Long Beach.

The 91-year-old U.S. Coast Guard veteran was paralyzed in a car crash in 1959. Today he is among 12 spinal-cord injury patients at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Long Beach Healthcare System’s newest center — a state-of-the-art long-term care facility that officials say is the only one of its kind west of Mississippi.
Local and national VA officials and members of Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) dedicated the center, at a ribbon cutting Sept. 9. Open for only a week at that time, four of the 12 rooms were already filled.
“I’m very happy,” Wells says. “It’s something new to me. Usually, we’re four to a room.”

Private Rooms, Packed 
With Technology

The unit is designed for veterans with a spinal-cord injury or disorder who aren’t able to live independently or with family, according to information provided by the VA. Each room is private and gives residents access to 24-hour care.
The rooms serve to provide a permanent home for each resident and come with a centralized control unit that allows patients to change such settings as the lights and bed position, access the Internet and watch television on their own.
The controls can be operated via a touch screen or customized with voice command or eye movement detection for patients who cannot use their hands and arms.
The facility is the sixth long-term care unit the VA operates.
Robert John Grant, a 61-year-old U.S. Army veteran who sustained a traumatic brain injury in 1975, was nearly speechless after seeing the rooms.
“It’s heaven-sent,” he says. “They’re so beautiful. I’m beyond words.”

Kristen Pressler, OT, shows a resident's room to PVA executive staff at the new Spinal Cord Injury Long-Term Care Unit in Long Beach, Calif. Photo Marc Hubbard.

Building On A Legacy

For VA Long Beach director Michael Fisher, opening the unit is the latest development in a long tradition of innovative spinal-cord injury care in Southern California.
Ernest Bors, MD, whose work at the Birmingham General Army Hospital in Van Nuys, Calif., — now a complex of schools — after World War II helped set the standard in the field and oversaw the development of the Long Beach VA, he says.
Now Fisher hopes the facility will be a model for other VA centers across the nation.
Getting the facility 
built has been a decade-long 
journey that would not have gotten off the ground without advocacy from PVA says Sophia Chun, MD, now national director for the VA’s spinal-cord injury program. Chun used to run the program in Long Beach.
Facilities similar to Long Beach’s might be increasingly in demand in the coming decades because at least 40% of the nation’s veterans are 65 years or older, Chun says.
“VA hospitals will be the final resting place for a lot of veterans,” says Al Kovach Jr., national president of PVA. “There was a time when spinal-cord injury patients didn’t live very long. [They] have unique needs. We need quality long-term care to ensure older veterans have a place to live their older years in dignity.”
For more information on the center, visit

Article reprinted with permission and courtesy of the Long Beach Press-Telegram.


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