Caroline Resnick’s husband Ralph had dementia when she took him to Charles House.
But that didn’t matter. He’d come in, look at the paper, smell the fresh bread baking. He was, his wife of 57 years said, “the classiest guy.”
One time another member, riled up over something Dick Cheney had done, turned to Ralph and asked what he thought of the vice president.
“And of course (with his memory loss) he didn’t know Cheney,” Resnick said.
But that didn’t stop Ralph.
“Everybody’s gotta make a living somehow,” he replied.
Resnick smiled last week as she toured the new Charles House at 7511 Sunrise Road in Chapel Hill. After 25 years, the Charles House Center for Community Eldercare is moving from a house on Hillcrest Avenue in Carrboro to a new center in the Carol Woods retirement community in Chapel Hill. The new center opens Monday, Aug. 31.
The renovation of the former child care center – “All the toilets were like this,” program director Sally Freeman said, touching her knees – has cost about $350,000. Residents of Carol Woods raised about half that.
The move expands Charles House from 3,500 square feet to 6,400 square feet.
It also enables the center to serve 40 people from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, up from the current 22.
Although the new location is not a home, director Paul Klever and others giving tours last week, say they want it to feel like one.
The front door opens onto a living room area, where caregivers can sit over coffee. The staff works in a room next door, but there’s no wall, the better to greet people and answer questions.
Nearby rooms serve as a caregivers library and an observation area. It has a one-way window, with a mirror on the other side, so visitors, including students, can watch a normal day’s activities – music, exercise, meals – at the center.
A large room with upholstered recliners fronts a future courtyard, soon to be stocked with koi.
And everywhere, art.
Derrick Ivey, an actor, theatrical set designer (and former Chapel Hill News columnist) arranged the interior, with as much as possible being brought over from Carrboro.
Ivey said he’s most happy with how the Dogwood Room turned out.
“The major challenge was finding a way to incorporate 12 recliners into one room without making if feel like a furniture store,” he said. He used a variety of fabrics that, coupled with an antique fireplace mantel, crown moulding, and soft window treatments, created a homey, inviting feel. While each room serves its purpose, he said, “the Dogwood Room seems to be where most people want to relax and linger.”
But it’s more than furniture that’s moving.
“It’s not the things as much as the legacy,” Klever said of the non-institutional philosophy set by founders Beppie Bradford and longtime pastor Charles Jones.
“That’s my job: to make sure the legacy gets transported.”
The number of people over 65 in Orange County is expected to grow to just over 31,000, or nearly one in five residents, by 2017, according to the Department on Aging (see box).
Many of the people who come to Charles House, some every weekday, some once in a while, have dementia. Some have had strokes, have Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.
The program costs $75 to $100 per day. Between 15 and 20 percent of members get some financial help from the center, Klever said. Long-term care insurance – but not Medicare – also helps cover costs.
The house gives members and their caregivers community, Klever said.
Resnick, who is 88, said her husband “needed to be with people.”
“He’d walk in and say, ‘Let the games begin!’” she said. “He loved it. He’d come home, and he was happy.”
“This place was a saving grace for him – and for me.”
Did you know?
Orange County’s older adult population is expected to follow similar growth patterns to those of the state and country.
The number of adults age 65 and up in Orange County is expected to increase by 31 percent between 2012 and 2017.
By 2030, this population will more than double from its size in 2012, reaching an estimated 31,063 people and making up 17.6 percent of all Orange County individuals compared to an approximate 10.6 percent in 2012.
Source: Orange County Department on Aging