Clayton celebrates new Alzheimer's center

For the first time in the county, families coping with Alzheimer's and dementia will have a place to send their affected loved ones, for 24-hour care that is dedicated specifically for such patients.

On Thursday, local, state, and federal officials, as well as the families of Alzheimer's sufferers, celebrated the ribbon-cutting of the new Alzheimer's Services Center, located at 7251 Mt. Zion Circle, in Morrow.

The nearly 12,000-square-foot facility will replace the county's current Alzheimer's Support Services, Inc., located at 6701 Ga. Highway 85, in Riverdale, and will provide an array of new services, including: Adult daycare and short-term overnight care services, walking trails, an exercise facility, and an in-house clinic.

Janice Coye, executive director of the Alzheimer's Services Center, said the county, the federal government, and the private sector pitched in to make the center a reality. Clayton County provided $1.5 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to construct the center, the Office of Congressman David Scott (D-Ga.) secured $346,500 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to pay for the center's equipment and furnishings, and the 3.2 acres of land, on which the center stands, was donated by a private entrepreneur.

Coye said the new center far exceeds the county's first Alzheimer's center established in 1987, which consisted of two rooms in what is now the Shellnut Inter-Generational Center, in Jonesboro. She said the county will move its Alzheimer's services from Riverdale to the new facility over the next 30 days.

"One of the things you learn when you're treating this disease is that even though they [patients] have memory loss, they still want to have a full life ... they still want to do things," said Coye. "A lot of these people don't really have a chance to go out anymore. This facility will allow us to do so much more," she said. "This is a place for them to have different experiences and activities, so they can feel significant."

According to Coye, the new facility will expand its adult daycare capacity from 25 patients, to up to 60 patients, and for the first time, the center will have eight beds for two-to-three night stays. She said the facility will allow caregivers to have a weekend to themselves — a luxury previously not afforded to families in Clayton dealing with Alzheimer's disease.

"A lot of people don't understand the complexity of this disease," Coye said. "In order to be a caregiver, you really need to be away from it sometimes." Coye said the new facility will also include a workout facility available to the families of Alzheimer's patients, as well as a resource room with educational materials and computer access.

Representatives from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Office of U.S. Rep. David Scott joined Clayton officials in cutting the ribbon on the new facility, Thursday morning. Cathie Berger, head of the ARC's Aging Services Division, said the amount of support the facility will be able to provide will be "tremendous."

"It serves two groups of people ... it helps people with Alzheimer's, but it also supports the family," said Berger. "It is just wonderful to have this kind of facility in the county and to have this focus on the care of adults. This way, the family members can work and know that their loved ones are being taken care of."

State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood), who serves as co-chairman of the Board of Directors for the Alzheimer's Services Center, said it will cost nearly $500,000 a year to keep the facility up and running. He said the center's success will depend on the continued support of the community.

"This disease is impacting, directly or indirectly, about 90 percent of the population," Glanton said. "It's [building the center is] just foresight. It's taken a lot of effort from leaders, past and current commissioners, to turn that wheel ... it will take a lot more effort to keep it going."