It’s been almost a year since Cornerstone Assisted Living in Bryson City was closed down and more than 30 senior citizens had to be relocated to assisted living facilities outside of Swain County.
A groundbreaking was held last Thursday (July 16) at the site of a new assisted living complex being built in Dillsboro. The event was more symbolic than most of its kind because some of the facility has already been erected; it even has a roof on it. That makes a planned opening early next year doable.
Called The Hermitage, the facility combines assisted living and a memory care community. The “Jackson Memory Care Retreat” will be a self-contained community on the campus.
“It will be a secure area; they will have their own dining room, an activities area, and an outdoor area,” said Allen Osborne, president of the operation’s management company, Third Street Management of Hickory.
Overall, the facility will be home to 90 residents, with 46 in the assisted living side, and 44 beds in the memory care unit for residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related problems. Each side will have its own specially trained staff, according to Osborne, with total target employment of between 40 and 50.
“We are recruiting from all over North Carolina,” Osborne said. “We need a licensed administrator — the person who manages day-to-day operations — a resident care coordinator and a special care coordinator. They oversee all the clinical and nursing aspects of our residents’ care.”
Osborne said the facility would also have a full dietary staff, certified nursing assistants, drivers to provide scheduled transportation and other support workers.
The structures will enclose close to 30,000 square feet on more than four acres of land. “It’s a beautiful site, convenient but secluded enough, very residential in feel,” Osborne said. He said the facility would work with WestCare in addressing residents’ medical needs.
“We’ll also be partnering with Western Carolina University on interesting initiatives in gerontology and long-term care,” Osborne said.
Integrated of Florida has done most of the construction, Osborne said. Third Street manages several similar facilities in the state, including Hayesville House and Yancy House in Burnsville.
Osborne said there is definitely a need for the kind of care the facility will provide.
“I’ve talked to the local skilled nursing facility. They have a lot of residents appropriate for this level of care as soon as we open,” he said.
Osborne said need is assessed in terms of drive times in a specific market area.
“Seventy-two percent of folks who live in an assisted living community moved there from within a 30-minute drive time of their previous residence,” he said. “There are 2,700 residents within that 30-minute drive time from this facility that are apparently not served.”
For the memory care unit, the drive-time measure is about 45 minutes.
“That’s because it’s such a specialized demand and specialized service,” Osborne said. “Those who would be in need of this facility within that drive time number about 1,500.”
The existence of a memory care facility within that distance from a resident’s former home is a great benefit, Osborne said.
“That proximity makes it more likely for people’s family to be able to visit and spend time,” Osborne said. “That’s important for any residents, but especially for memory care residents. It does wonderful things for the residents, and also wonderful things for the family.
“We talk about creating five minutes of joy in the memory care facility,” he said. “If you do that several times, by that time you’ve created a very nice day for someone.”
Osborne said the facility expects to be registering residents in late December and open by January 2010.