Feels like home: Peoria nurse is opening a small assisted living facility in north Peoria
Journal Star (Peoria, IL)
Apr. 19—PEORIA — When Green Leaf Senior Living opens in North Peoria early this summer, it will fulfill a longtime vision of Peoria resident Erin Taylor Nevitt.
As an advanced-practice nurse, Nevitt has worked with older people throughout most of her career, and she has long dreamed of opening a small, home-like senior care facility.
"I'm offering something a little different in the city for people who like living in the city but don't want to go into a larger, corporate-owned facility," said Nevitt. "You hear a lot about the home-like setting — everybody says that, everybody advertises that. ... But I truly wanted to design the building so it actually resembles a home."
Nevitt has been overseeing renovations on a former office building on Harker Drive off Pioneer Parkway in North Peoria since purchasing the building late in 2020. The 9,000-square-foot building is being reconfigured to house 16 residents.
"It's not going to be apartments. Residents will have their own private bedrooms, but then they will have shared spaces like all the rooms you typically have in a house — dining room, living room, and it has a commercial kitchen, a regulation per IDPH," said Nevitt. "There will also be an exercise room, a library, a salon and a craft room."
The facility is licensed as assisted living, so it's for people able to live independently or with a minimum of assistance.
"In assisted living, according to the IDPH regulation, if they need grooming, bathing, dressing, if they require the help of more than one staff member, then they aren't legally allowed to living in an assisted-living facility," said Nevitt, who will screen prospective residents to make sure they are a good fit.
Nevitt, who grew up in Lacon, has worked and lived in the Peoria area her whole career. She started out as a dental hygienist but soon realized that she was interested in caring for the whole person.
"I knew that I wanted to delve into more than just their oral health. I was interested in the overall health of the body," said Nevitt, who went to nursing school and got a bachelor's degree in 1997 and a master's degree in 2004. Soon after, she took the exam to become an advanced-practice nurse.
"I've been in nursing for almost 25 years, first as a nurse, and after I got a master's degree, I became an advanced-practice nurse and a clinical nurse specialist," said Nevitt. "I've worked in internal medicine, family practice, I also taught at OSF and Bradley University, and I've also been a director at a facility, and I've worked in hospice care."
Most recently, Nevitt did risk assessments and post-hospitalization visits for various insurance companies, a job that required her to visit patient homes. In 2019, she decided it was time to pursue her dream.
"I used to joke with my husband that I always had the feeling of something I wanted to do differently when I was treating people in other facilities. The ideas, through my education and experience, were just always in my head," said Nevitt. "Then there came a time when I had a position and, due to unforeseen circumstances, I lost that position. And I was like, OK, I'm back to square one ... and I knew in my heart it was the time. My husband said, 'Let's do it.'"
Though Nevitt's husband is very supportive, Green Leaf Senior Living is her project. As the sole owner, she plans to also be a caregiver.
"I will be one of the caregivers on first shift, and I will always be available 24/7," said Nevitt. "I don't plan to live in the facility, but I live only eight minutes away. We just moved, so I could be closer."
Though her business model is not unique — she modeled it after the smaller senior homes more typically found in small towns — it is unusual in Peoria. Many area facilities have corporate owners who Nevitt says don't provide the hands-on care she plans to give. The desire to care for the elderly is something that grew out of her childhood in Lacon.
"We attended a small church in Lacon with a lot of older folks. ... They were an extension of our family. I was always drawn to those people. I remember at a young age wanting to be there for anything they needed. When I was in high school, I worked in a nursing home in our town. A lot of kids might not have wanted to do that," said Nevitt. "I just feel like older people have so much wisdom to share, stories to tell and love to give, and yet I feel like they are sometimes overlooked when it comes to life in general and health care as well. And I really feel like they have so much to give and share that I want to give this to them, and do the best I can to serve that."
Anyone interested in learning more can contact Nevitt at (309) 360-6956 or [email protected].