House of Grace Aims to Catch New Wave
Released on Friday, February 10, 2012By Mike Dowty, The Livingston Parish News
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Senior citizens in this area will soon have a new way to grow old gracefully.
House of Grace, now under construction off La. 16 north of the city, will open as an 8-bed "personal care home" in June that offers the advantages of a nursing home in the environment of a residence.
"This is sort of the up and coming new trend coming across the nation," said co-owner Catherine Dehline. "People are trying to find alternatives to nursing homes and there just aren't that many out there."
Dehline, a nurse, and her husband Mike opened Generations Hospice more that a decade ago, but she has always wanted to do more.
"I can remember in high school believing I could build a retirement center for all my loved ones," she said, recalling her feelings when her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimers. "I was going to put it where Bass Pro is."
"Catherine has just always known she wanted to go into nursing and geriatrics. That's a love for her," said her sister Carolyn Guidry, a retired teacher and part-owner who will serve as the facility's director. The sisters were originally best known as sports stars (the Spangler sisters) at Denham Springs High School in the 1980s and 1990s. Catherine discontinued playing basketball at Southeastern Louisiana University to concentrate on nursing, then worked for North Oaks Health Systems in Hammond after graduating. She later took a hospital job in Chicago, where she met her future husband Mike. They moved back to her home community where they founded Generations Hospice, which eventually built a permanent facility at 32948 La. 16. House of Grace is under construction directly behind Generations Hospice.
Guidry found her way into the family business following a successful career in track at Southeastern, where she earned her degree then served as a public school teacher in Livingston Parish for the past 20 years.
The mother of the two sisters is retired Denham Springs High School softball coach Robbie Spangler, who took numerous teams to the state tournament and won two state championships during her tenure. She, along with numerous other members of their large family, are co-owners of the new enterprise.
Licensed by the state Department of Health and Hospitals, the 4,500-square foot House of Grace on 1.3 acres will offer four private and two semi-private rooms where residents can live in much the same way they would in a house, while surrounded by professional care and support 24 hours a day. They will have round-the-clock access to certified nursing assistant caretakers, dietician approved meals and community dining. They will have an onsite beauty salon and a chaplain. A coordinator will plan daily activities that might range from gardening to exercise sessions or other hobbies. Yet independence is part of the plan as well. The certified nursing assistants will provide daily living assistance, meal preparation, companionship, and transportation for things such as doctors appointments.
Residents might take walks in the garden or even drive if they are able. This is not a place that is bogged down with rules the way a large institution might be. There are no curfews or visitor hours.
"It will be just like visiting your grandmother at her house," Dehline said.
"My grandmother is a prime candidate," Guidry said. "She's still driving. She's still active and doing things."
Before planning the House of Grace, Guidry visited a personal care home in North Carolina over the summer to study the concept and also researched similar operations in Pennsylvania over the Internet.
She said her husband, David Guidry, came up with the name.
"We have a family member named Grace and we want people to think of aging with grace and hopefully this place will allow them to do that," Guidry said.
Dehline believes that while House of Grace will be the first personal care home in this area, it won't be the last.
"These are not common yet in this part of the country, but they're coming," she said. "The idea is to have one of these in every neighborhood."
Such facilities are not covered by Medicaid or any other government program. All the expenses are private pay, and the costs start at $141 a day and go up depending on the level of care and assistance required. It is all about quality of life, and the founders of House of Grace believe those who can afford it will find the dignity that comes with independence and an intimate environment is priceless.