Facility for memory-impaired planned

March 15, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

The winter weather didn't alter the construction pace at Copper Ridge. The $17 million complex, the first on the East Coast for people with Alzheimer's disease and other memory-impairing disorders, is set for a July opening in Sykesville.

Before she helped plan Copper Ridge, Carol L. Kershner visited 17 similar facilities in seven states.

Architects planned the best ideas she brought back from those visits into the 100,000-square-foot building on a 14-acre parcel next to Fairhaven Retirement Community. Crews broke ground in February 1993.

Copper Ridge will contain 66 comprehensive-care beds, 60 domiciliary-care beds and an adult day care center for 25 people.

It also will have an assessment clinic for its residents and others in nearby communities.

"People from Western Maryland won't have to travel to Johns Hopkins," said Ms. Kershner, vice president of operations for the Episcopal Ministries to the Aging Inc., parent company to the new facility. "They can come here instead, where they will be treated by Hopkins staff, leaders in research in this field."

The two-story white building, with large windows, mirrors the character of the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Short hallways, country kitchens and dens give Copper Ridge the feel of home, rather than the look of a hospital.

Each bedroom features soft, light colors and print wallpaper borders, padded window seats and pale carpeting.

Some residents will be able to choose one of three 20-room houses, each with a den, private bedrooms and a kitchen, where residents can participate in meal preparation. The houses also have social gathering places with rocking chairs, recliners and furnishings similar to what they used in their homes.

Garden rooms with wicker furniture and ceiling fans open onto courtyards and secure gardens. Natural light pours in from nearly 2,000 windows.

The sameness of each area contributes to the residents' sense of independence and well-being, Ms. Kershner said. The facility offers dental services, occupational and physical therapy, a coffee shop as well as barber and beauty shops for residents.

The statistics on memory impairment are astounding, Ms. Kershner said. Ten percent of all Americans over 65 have some illness that affects memory. The percentage climbs to 47 for those over 85. One of every eight families includes a member with some form of dementia.

Many of the concepts at Copper Ridge are innovative and untested. The staff will share information and research with state agencies.

"We are doing a lot not done before," Ms. Kershner said. "Other agencies are accustomed to saying 'why' rather than 'why not.' "

The staff, eventually to include about 175 full- and part-time employees, is working from a list of about 180 inquiries to fill the facility.

While Ms. Kershner would not discuss fees, she called Copper Ridge a not-for-profit organization.

"To provide care in a decent setting costs more than we would like," she said. "There is no public money for assisted living in domiciliary care." The adult day care and comprehensive-care units will accept Medicare recipients.

The furnishings are set to arrive June 1, in time for a preview during the Copper Ball, a community fund-raising event June 18.

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