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New 'Village' opens doors

Village at Valley View, a new modern and unique memory care facility on the north side of Ashland, is now open and ready to start taking in residents suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

It's intended to help fill a growing need. In 2016, approximately 62,000 Oregon residents over the age of 65 suffered from Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

At its grand opening on Wednesday, numerous administrators and partners spoke on the benefits of having a memory care center of its size so close to home, including guest speaker, state Sen. Alan DeBoer. 

“Having facilities close to home helps our environment,” DeBoer said. “You don’t have to drive so far.”

The village, located next to Lithia Springs Resort at 1071 West Jackson Road, just south of the Highway 99 and South Valley View Road intersection, contains three individual cottages connected by enclosed walkways and open outdoor gardens. Each cottage has 16 beds for a total of 48 beds. Four rooms are set up for couples.

Monthly, all-inclusive rates start at $5,750 for a shared room and $6,550 for a private room, according to Sherri Scott, executive administrator. Medicaid is accepted.

“We don’t do point systems, or care levels,” Scott said. “We are one price for everything.”

Another aspect of the facility that makes it unique is that, rather than a unit of a larger chain, it is privately owned by local partners, including John, Kathryn and Bill Chmelir; David Landry; Lloyd Haines; Larry McLennan; Barry and Kathryn Thalden; and Dean and Chris DeBaun.

Village at Valley View will be just the second Ashland facility offering memory care, joining Skylark Memory Care.

“Today is a day of appreciation and gratitude, starting with the partners,” Ellen Waldman, who served as a consultant on the project, said in remarks at the grand opening open house. The geriatric care manager for Senior Options, which acts as a guide and advocate for families caring for older relatives and Tidings Aging Happens columnist added, “'Village' is a perfect descriptor for what they’ve created.”

Village at Valley View is designed to feel more like a home and less like a hospital or nursing home. An open kitchen, dining area and sitting area with views of immaculate gardens are at the center of each cottage, with bedrooms and activity rooms branching out from these areas.

“Though created as a state-of-the-art memory care center, life at the village will seem more like home,” Scott said. “As evidenced in the charming architecture, and delightful interiors, to the staff, food, gardens, and activities, the Village is intended to provide a warm, comfortable, safe environment where residents receive heart-felt care.”

Staff are hand-selected by specialists and are on site 24/7.

Marya Kaine, geriatric care manager of Power of the Heart, will help train staff. She said reflecting on the question, “What makes home, home?” shaped the Village itself, as well as what employers are looking for in the staff that will care for the residents.

“What are your non-negotiables that you value so much about being home that you would hesitate to move somewhere else?” Kaine asked the crowd. “The answers are things like: I want to have my morning coffee, real coffee, and I want to have it in my robe with my newspaper, and I want to sleep with the window cracked open.”

Residents will have access to diverse indoor and outdoor activities tailored to their capabilities, including helping in the outdoor gardens.

Currently only one cottage is ready to open. Residents are expected to begin moving in Tuesday, Aug. 1. The rest of the facility will be ready for move-ins starting in October.

“Each aspect of this project has been very carefully thought out, essentially from scratch, as to what could be the best possible solution in every respect," said Barry Thalden, "the food, the music, what birds go into the bird cages, the plants, the landscape, the staffing and the care, and of course the furniture, and the building."

Most of the furniture was custom designed and hand-built for the residents, Thalden, a retired architect, said.

A local chef will prepare organic and local foods, farm-to-table style, Scott said.

“This is not just a resource for the people that live here, it’s a resource for the community,” Thalden said. “Because this terrible disease affects more than the people who have it. It affects friends and family, really a wide circle.”

Because of this need, an auditorium room seating 20 people was built at the village with the intention of housing support and educational groups for use by the entire community.

“They say 'it takes a village' to take care of our elderly,” Thalden said. “It is our hope that this is such a village.”

— Email Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at caitlin.fowlkes@gmail.com.

(July 28: Story updated to reflect that Medicaid, not Medicare, is accepted, and that Bill Chmelir is also a partner.)