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New memory-care wing fills need at assisted living center

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Not so long ago, long-term residents at the Golden Crest Assisted Living Center in Morrow, who fell into dementia and Alzheimer's disease, would have to be sent to other facilities for more appropriate care.

With the opening of the new Memory Care wing of the center, residents with failing memories can now be cared for in a familiar place with familiar faces.

The Memory Care wing, also known as "The Cottage" by those who work there, opened in late October and has fulfilled a growing need at the center for dementia and Alzheimer's care. According to Janet Agnew, executive director of Golden Crest, seven of the center's assisted living residents were able to be transferred to the Memory Care wing, and four new residents from the community have moved into the wing since its opening.

"[The Memory Care wing] gives us another dimension in caring for the elderly," said Agnew. "If you move into assisted living and lose that edge, you don't have to lose your home. You can just go down the hall. That's a comfort for the families."

Beverly Van Gorder, director of marketing for the center, said that while people these days are living longer, and more cases of dementia and Alzheimer's disease are being diagnosed, most people don't think about mental-care facilities until there is a "crisis."

"It's obviously a devastating disease that our society is dealing with," said Van Gorder. "It's emotionally draining and physically exhausting, so when we can take it off their hands ... that helps families to cope, and it makes this disease a little less daunting."

Van Gorder said that patients dealing with mental diseases often have a difficult time dealing with new environments, and that the new memory-care center provided a "smoother transition" for residents with failing mental health.

The mental-care wing of the center is sealed from off from the rest of the building in order to keep residents from wandering off. Yet, the center is designed to keep residents from feeling restrained, according Sharon Foster, operations administrator for Golden Crest.

The wing is designed with looped walkways, which give residents the feeling of continuance -- something that is comforting for those with mental diseases.

"Even though they have mentally altered states, we teach them how to make their beds, we let them pick out what food they want to eat," said Foster. "We try to give them a place where they can harbor their independence and not feel restrained. Even though it is secure and closed, it doesn't feel that way for them."

Agnew said that "The Cottage" was a fitting name for the new center.

"We basically just wanted a name with a gentle and cozy feeling to it," said Agnew. "It is a home, not an institution. We want to make sure that the last part of that circle [of life] is as good as the first part."