Sunny Springs offers new-found freedom to residents

BY PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writer

April 6, 2008 - A first of its kind of service for the families of loved ones suffering from dementia and Alzheimers' has made its way to Hopkins County as Sunny Springs Nursing and Rehab, 1200 North Jackson St., expands its facility to include a secured unit for individuals with wander-seeking behavior.

"When you get to a point where you have someone that wanders; a lot of nursing homes won't take on that responsibility," said Mike Adams, Sunny Springs administrator, who came to the area from Green Acres in Emory where he was director for nine years. "After turning people away for the past three years since I've been here, I decided maybe Sunny Springs should go that route. I saw that it was a definite need in this community, because families do get to a point where they just can't take care of them anymore."

The 95 room, four-wing facility has dedicated 2/3 of one wing, 12 beds, an activity room and a dining area, to patients who suffer mental disabilities, early dementia and Alzheimers. The partial hall, named after longtime Sunny Springs employee Evelyn Harris, has been beautifully transformed into a secured, locked-down unit, complete with an outside fenced courtyard that allows residents to roam at their leisure.

"We needed something for residents who tend to wander," explained Adams. "These patients, they walk, they pace."

The courtyard is surrounded by an 8-foot privacy fence with a meandering pathway so residents do not feel like they are just walking in a circle. A gazebo situated in the middle of the yard has shrubbery and flowers that add to the outside area's charm.

"I can't say enough positives about Sunny Springs," said Robert Shiflet of Emory, who recently transferred his 89-year-old mother who has suffered from Alzheimers' for the past eight years to Sunny Springs. "I don't have to go to sleep at night worrying about what's going on in her world. The professionalism of the place starts with the guy at the top, but goes beyond that to a warm, friendly, caring environment from the people who work there."

Another family member of a different resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said that having a local secured facility made it so much easier for her to leave her husband, who lives with the same illness, in the care of others.

"Alzheimers' is a horrible, horrible disease," she said. "It just tears at my heart because they are still so able-bodied. But, I'm relieved and comforted to have a safe place like this for him where somebody is with him at all times. It's really pretty; very nice and clean."

Families of residents are also encouraged to decorate the rooms to their own liking in ways that reflects their loved one's life.

"They can bring in a favorite chair, personal belongings- whatever they need to make it feel like home," Adams said. "It's great to be able to provide this service to the community; to provide families with the comfort of knowing their loved ones are safe and secure."

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