By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE -- Placing a loved one with memory loss in an assisted living facility is a choice many families don't want to make.
Joe Hood understands this firsthand. His wife of 64 years, Betty, is a resident of Grace Manor, an assisted living facility specializing in memory care patients. He visits his wife every day to make her stay more comfortable.
On a recent afternoon, the Hoods were spending time together working on a puzzle at a table in the facility's lobby. Mr. Hood said moving his wife to an assisted living facility has been hard on both him and his wife.
"She doesn't really want to stay here," Mr. Hood said of his wife. "She would rather be at my house. We don't call my house a home (because) it's not a home anymore."
But if a family member has no choice besides assisted living, the staff at Grace Manor feels their facility would accommodate their needs so the resident coming in can be as independent as possible.
"We assist any and all needs," said Jan Rodgers, a licensed practical nurse who serves as Grace Manor's executive director. "Someone might still be able to dress and feed themselves but might need help with other activities for daily living. Some may need total assistance."
Grace Manor, on Herbert Street near Silver Sands Middle School, has served the community through its memory care for seniors suffering from Alzheimer's disease, memory loss and other cognitive impairments since opening its doors in March 2011.
Ms. Rodgers said assisted living is an "unfortunate need" in the community due to the growing elderly population. What sets Grace Manor apart from other assisted living facilities is that it's specifically targeted towards the special needs of memory care patients.
"Our staff are all trained on how to physically and cognitively deal with special needs for Alzheimer's patients," she said. Grace Manor's staff of certified nursing aides help administer care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, she added.
Grace Manor features three different types of private memory care suite options, as well as a custom service that works to replicate the resident's home environment. Currently, the facility can accommodate 16 residents at a time.
The suites are contained within distinct neighborhoods called "Care Coves," which were designed to support the varying needs of memory care patients. Each Care Cove has separate living areas and dining rooms, as well as its own staff, enabling residents to receive closer monitoring and assistance from caregivers.
Ms. Rodgers said staff originally intended to separate limited assistance residents and total assistance residents, but decided the residents function better when integrated.
"They kind of support each other that way, the person next door might walk (a resident who requires total assistance) to breakfast," Ms. Rodgers said, describing the residents as a "tight-knit community."
Thrive Senior Living, a Georgia-based management company specializing in senior care facilities, manages the marketing and administrative operations of Grace Manor. Its president, Tod Petty -- who prefers the word "community" to "facility" when describing the atmosphere of his company's properties -- said he is committed to ensuring the highest standards of care at Grace Manor.
"The culture and atmosphere of each community reflects the personality of the team managing and directing the community along with the preferences of our residents," Mr. Petty said. "Both are necessary to create an atmosphere of life and love."
An important part of that atmosphere is socialization. Providing residents with personalized social activities improves their well being, Ms. Rodgers said, adding many seniors living in the facility enjoy the interaction with others.
"It keeps them from being isolated in their own homes because they can't get out and (family members are) so busy with their lives so no one stops by," she said.
Grace Manor has an activities coordinator on staff who provides activities for the residents that "they are still able to do and enjoy" such as arts and crafts projects, sing-alongs, and bus rides.
Ms. Rodgers said Grace Manor has nine vacancies and is offering a special promotion that runs until the end of December where the "community fee," or admission charge, is waived from the bill.
She said the family members, relatives and court-appointed guardians of seniors living in Grace Manor appreciate the work her staff does.
"I think we have a wonderful community," Ms. Rodgers said. "I would encourage anyone to stop by and tour the place."
Grace Manor is at 1321 Herbert Street in Port Orange. For more information, call (386) 310-4995 or visit www.gracemanorportorange.com.