Ganzhorn Suites’ compassion provides comfort to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients

Ganzhorn Suites’ CEO Eleanor Alvarez

Eleanor Alvarez knows the extraordinary effort it takes to care for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The memory of her grandmother’s long battle with Alzheimer’s is with her every day. The journey, she says, is something she can never forget. The heartbreak of not being able to find her the lifestyle and care she deserved is something she can never forget.

Alvarez became committed to make sure her grandmother’s journey was not in vain. From the experience came The Ganzhorn Suites—a state-of-the-art community that provides people with memory loss a meaningful, dignified and fulfilling lifestyle.

Named for her grandmother, Ganzhorn Suites’ specialized evidenced-based memory care offers luxurious, purpose-built residential living and compassionate, personalized care.

Defined by its innovation in care, technology and residential design, the centers, located in Avon and Powell, Ohio, are designed to nurture the mind, body and spirit, so that residents can live fully—no matter where they are in their journey.

We sat down with Ganzhorn Suites’ CEO Eleanor Alvarez to get her thoughts on how assisted living centers are operating in the new landscape.

Give us a snapshot of the facility.
The Ganzhorn Suites is a highly specialized memory care assisted living community committed to meeting the evolving needs of residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. We offer specialized memory care and programming in a beautiful, supportive environment. We focus on innovation in care, technology and residential design. We believe in enhancing our residents’ well-being by offering advanced care practices, exceptional staff and personalized services in a beautiful therapeutic setting.

How does the overall design of your facility cater to what your patients need?
Safety and security are top priorities when you have a family member living with dementia. Our purpose-built design and use of advanced technologies cater to these priorities. Each of our four small households are self-contained and function independently with their own kitchen, dining area, den, sunroom, laundry room and courtyard. Research shows that smaller more intimate spaces are easier to understand and navigate for someone living with dementia.

Regarding security, our front door and household doors are secured. Each family has their own keycard enabling them to enter the center and the household where their loved one resides.

Our employees are our greatest asset. First and foremost, we work to maximize their safety and comfort while caring for our residents.

What protocols have been put into place today?
Our household design reduces the risk of exposure, spread and cross-contamination of viruses like COVID-19. Our high staffing ratios (1:6) enable us to provide almost one-on-one care, meaning we have more opportunity to make sure residents are washing their hands and to redirect them to help maintain social distancing guidelines.

We are also enabling families, friends and prospects to visit and/or tour safely using virtual platforms like FaceTime and Zoom.

Even though we have dedicated enrichment caregivers, we are using technology to support our enrichment programming during the pandemic. For example, we bring live music, art classes, religious services, and more to residents using platforms like Zoom and Facebook Live. We also use Linked Senior which is an evidence-based resident engagement software program that supports person-centered enrichment for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Our residents and staff have access to unlimited and constantly updated content delivered through an easy to use touch screen app.

Which do you think you will incorporate moving forward?
No doubt we will continue to use virtual platforms to offer tours, education programs and support groups for families, referral sources and prospects.

(L-R) Mitch Lapin, President, Fortney & Weygandt; Chuck Davis, Superintendent, Fortney & Weygandt; and Don McClear, Project Manager, Fortney & Weygandt.

What kind of conversations are you having with your employees? Vendor partners?
Our employees are our greatest asset. First and foremost, we work to maximize their safety and comfort while caring for our residents. Luckily, our team members understand how important it is to follow health and safety guidelines both at work and at home. As a result, we have been able to avoid a COVID outbreak at our center.

What is the best piece of advice you can offer on how to deal with everything today?
Make sure you have consistent, transparent communication, and stay vigilant in following health and safety protocols.

Walk us through your facility design?
We believe resident-centered, evidenced-based memory care and programming ensure the best possible lifestyle for our residents. At the Ganzhorn Suites, we focus on innovation in environmental design to help residents maintain their cognitive function for as long as possible. Experts consulted with our team on the impact of light, sounds, color and textures in order to incorporate safe, soothing surfaces, fixtures and furniture. Each space within our community reflects careful research in best practices for Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

Our purpose-built design creates smaller, more familiar spaces where residents feel safe and at ease. Residents are encouraged to walk through the “neighborhood”, sit at the kitchen table or take a stroll outside. Our intimate setting promotes independence in a fully secure environment. State-of-the-art safety and monitoring systems allow residents to enjoy maximum freedom in a protected environment.

Both our Powell, Ohio and Avon, Ohio memory care centers include 64 private suites (with private baths) within four small households, each serving residents who are in similar stages of dementia. These households are built around beautifully designed courtyards with circular paths that provide residents with the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. The gardens’ Zen-like feel offers the perfect backdrop for aromatherapy and other life-enrichment programming.

What trends are you seeing?
Prospective families are looking not just for care but for connection. Our small households are ideal for bringing families and staff together. Families get to know not only our caregivers but also each other along with every resident residing within the household. This connection maximizes the quality of life for every resident regardless of their stage of dementia.

In addition, families want personalized care for their loved one. We deliver by offering a consistent team of caregivers within each household. This dedicated team understands each resident’s individual routines and healthcare needs.

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One-on-One with…
Mitch Lapin, President, Fortney & Weygandt

What kind of conversations are you having with your employees? Vendor partners?
That it is important to maintain COVID protocols, and more day to day communication due to the very active construction market.

What’s the biggest issue today related to the construction side of the business?
Keeping construction workers focused on the COVID protocols that are required to keep everyone safe, communicating with vendors regarding material and equipment availability

Describe a typical day.
On site early to review activities to be done that day, and stay late to confirm what was achieved so that we can stay on schedule and deal with questions in a proactive way.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Definitely the finished product and the responses from the end users (operator) with appreciation and admiration and pleasure at being able to work in a beautiful facility.

What was the best advice you ever received?
Take each day as it is and try to address the issues of the day, but make sure not to take them home with you at the end of the day.

What is the best thing a client ever said to you?
“Thank you for giving us a beautiful facility” and “We appreciate your staff’s professional work ethic and attitude.”

How do you like to spend your down time?
Summer: tennis, hiking and playing with the dogs. Winter: crossword puzzles, skiing and sitting by the fire reading a good book.

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