A missing option for seniors and their caretakers in north Georgia will soon be filled with the opening of Blue Ridge Assisted Living and Memory Care at the end of September. Currently there is no secured memory care facility from Blairsville down to Canton, which is why Dawson County residents Pat and Vince Lindley decided to open a facility in Blue Ridge. The Lindley’s are the owners and operators of Blue Ridge Assisted Living and Memory Care. The facility is not part of a nation-wide chain. The Lindley’s have had owned and operated similar facilities in the past which have since closed or passed to new ownership. One facility was Gracemont Assisted Living and Memory Care in Cumming.
The one-level, 58,000 sq. foot facility has 39 assisted-living and 28 memory care residences. While the facility is licensed for 134 people, the facility will probably have 80 residents at most. There are many different residence layouts to choose from, from semi-private to studio to two-bedroom. Some residences are especially modeled for wheelchairs, including different height sinks and wheel-chair accessible bathrooms. The rooms are basically blank slates which residents will furnish and decorate themselves. No rooms have their own cooking facilities due to fire safety regulations regarding assisted living residences. Residents will have internet access in the community areas. The assisted living area has four outdoor garden areas; the memory care area has one fenced-in garden area. There is an on-site salon. Monthly fees are all-inclusive with room, meals, utilities, twice-weekly housekeeping, once-weekly laundry and medication assistance. Residents can use plans such as personal savings, long-term care insurance and VA Aid and Attendance to pay for their residence. The facility does not accept Medicare or Medicaid.
Blue Ridge Assisted Living and Memory Care is not a skilled-nursing facility. Their license will come as an assisted-living community license. CNAs will be on staff 24 hours a day. But, medical procedures such as wound care, monitoring medication changes or blood work will be done by home health care or hospice services.
Recently, FetchYourNews had the opportunity to tour the facility with Executive Director Elizabeth Zylstra to find out what community life for the residents will be and how Blue Ridge Assisted Living and Memory Care will fit into Fannin life.
Ms. Zylstra said that the facility is divided into two neighborhoods, assisted living and memory care. The assisted living neighborhood has a dining area, several community spaces and a large living room replete with a bistro where residents can have an afternoon cocktail in front of two massive stone fireplaces, if they desire. The facility’s Social Director, Rachael Holbrook, will be developing the activities calendar according to what the residents decide on. Ms. Zylstra has already been in contact with local churches to set up church services for residents and welcomes other local organizations that want to hold programs here. Besides on-site community activities, she imagines residents will join other Fannin civic organizations. The facility’s bus will take residents shopping once a week and to the doctor when needed. Assisted-living residents will be able to come and go as they wish, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Good news for extended family is that residents can have over-night visitors for up to seven days. So, parents will still be able to drop off grandkids for a visit at grandma’s.
The memory care neighborhood has the same room layouts as the assisted living neighborhood. Ms. Zylstra describes this as “aging in place.” As people need to move from assisted living to memory care, the shock won’t be as great because the residents will already be familiar with the colors and noises of the building. While the community room in the memory care neighborhood doesn’t have a massive stone fireplace, it does have a massive panoramic window that looks out over 515 and Ballewtown Road and surrounding ridges. Another feature is a Snoezelen Room which is multisensory therapy room used for people with developmental disabilities and dementia. The room uses different types of lighting, sounds, textures and smells. The sensory experience in the room helps dementia patients cope with anxiety, fear and discomfort, especially in the early to mid- stages of dementia. Also, the nursing station is front and center, so that nurses can see all of the memory care area a one time. The memory care area has its own dining room.
Ms. Zylstra went on to explain the backup safety elements like having two generators, three days of emergency food and water, lower curbsides in the parking lot and a one-level facility with a wide flat area on top. Some of the measures seemed over-the-top for me, so I asked Ms. Zylstra to explain. She said that the safety features anticipate what could happen during a natural disaster, like electricity being shut off for several days or having to evacuate the facility.
FetchYourNews also asked Ms. Zylstra how the facility and its residents will be part of the Fannin community. She imagines that many of the assisted living residents will join local civic groups and encourages groups to contact her so that she can pass the information along. For her part, Ms. Zylstra wants to see the facility become a place for community education about diseases associated with aging brains such as Parkinson’s and dementia.
Blue Ridge Assisted Living and Memory Care also has an economic impact on Fannin County. During the construction phase, the facility worked to partner with local companies for all stages. Once in operation, the facility will have between 40-60 staff. Ms. Zylstra is still interviewing for housekeeping, CNAs, cooks, activities coordinator for memory care, LPN and receptionist. The application is at blueridgeassistedliving.com. The facility is also looking for local health and wellness businesses and artists who want to offer community classes and workshops at the facility.