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Gentilly expects growth
Assisted living facility only one in Boro to offer Alzheimer's wing
Gentilly Gardens assisted care residents Esther Arnold, far left, and Sarah Lee, second right, enjoy a game of bingo Monday with Georgia Southern student volunteers Marlan Eller, front, Shanika Jones, far right, and Ed Wells. Bingo is just one of several "mind games" which Gentilly Gardens use to help residents with cognitive stimulation and social interaction. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

      With the "baby boom" generation hitting retirement age in record numbers, the demand for long-term care is increasing. Gentilly Gardens is meeting that demand by providing assisted living for those needing some extra help, as well as those with Alzheimers disease and dementia.
      Founded in 2001, Gentilly Gardens is the only assisted living facility in Bulloch County with a wing dedicated to the care of residents with Alzheimers and dementia. Referred to as the "memory" wing, there is currently a waiting list to move into one of the 12 apartments within the wing.
      "The memory wing has always been a part of Gentilly Gardens," said Chris Purser, executive director of the facility. "It is a very important part of what we do. For the most part, families really try to care for their loved ones at home, but there may come a time where that becomes too difficult."
      That was the case for George Walters when he placed his wife Ann with Gentilly Gardens two years ago. "My wife has Alzheimers, and I had been through that with both my mother and grandmother," he said. "I knew that at some point, I would need help. I began doing research and had no idea that Gentilly Gardens had an Alzheimers wing. I was so excited. I had probably driven by it more than 100 times, and never realized it."
      Walters said as soon as he walked in, he knew it was the right place for his wife.
      "When I describe it to folks, I say that it is like grandmother's house," he said. "When you walk in, you can smell the good food that is being prepared, and it has a very homey atmosphere. I visit my wife everyday, and some people just assume that I live there."
       Even though residents in the memory unit require a great deal of supervision, they don't require skilled care. Purser said the difference between an assisted living facility and a nursing home is that "skilled" care is not delivered in an assisted living home.
       "Our residents can get around, some with walkers or wheelchairs, on their own," he said. "They don't need any ongoing medical care for wounds, broken bones, or medical equipment. However, we do dispense medication."
      Purser said for some, Gentilly Gardens serves as a transition. "We do have residents that were with us for a number of years, but began to need more skilled care," he said. "At that point, the family must examine their options. Sometimes, a nursing home is the answer, but we try to do everything in our power to keep them here for as long as we can."
Charles Woodcock's parents both lived in Gentilly Gardens before his father passed away. Woodcock's mother continues to live there.
       "My dad was three or four years older than my mom," Woodcock said. "It had gotten to the point where he was unable to drive, so my brother and I began looking at a facility for them. Gentilly Gardens is so nice, and everyone is very friendly. Chris is like another son to her."
       Woodcock lives in Ellabell and makes the trip to Statesboro three to four times per week to see his mother.
       "I'm over here all the time taking her to doctor's appointments or to the beauty parlor," he said. "They do everything they can for my mother. I know that she is being well taken care of."
       Recently, Gentilly Gardens received the 2010 National Pinnacle Award with Best in Class in the following areas: Overall Satisfaction, Response to Problems, Dignity and Respect, Communication, Transportation Needs, and Security and Safety. The award was given by Pinnacle Quality Insight, a nationally recognized customer satisfaction firm.
      Grace Holloway became health service director for Gentilly Gardens in 2009. After almost four decades of working as a nurse in a local medical practice, Holloway said she thoroughly enjoys her "new" job.
       "I just love the atmosphere here," she said. "Everyone is smiling, talking, and the staff is wonderful. It takes special people to work in this field, and this staff is very special. You can feel it when you walk through the facility. They are very loving and caring, and the residents feel that."
       Purser said there are plans to expand Gentilly Gardens in perhaps the not-so-distant future.
       "Right now we have 24 regular assisted living apartments, and 12 memory wing apartments," he said. "The plans are to build a mirror image of what is here now which would double the capacity of the facility."
       To learn more about Gentilly Gardens, visit their website at

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