New wing makes Mason-run facility the second in Forest Grove to offer dementia care

Waiting lists and high costs face many families hoping to find a spot for their loved one in an assisted living community with memory-care services.

Out of 11 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Forest Grove, Jennings McCall Continuing Retirement Community recently became the second to offer memory care with the grand opening of its new wing for residents with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems.

Channon Larson, community administrator at Jennings McCall, said he started planning and saving for the project a year and a half ago.

“It’s the fastest growing area of care,” he said. “And we expect it will continue to grow.”

Supply just wasn’t meeting demand, he said, and many other facilities in the area are full with waiting lists. Memory care is a hot topic in the senior care industry that will only become more critical as the underserved population grows.

Members of the Masonic Eastern Star Home (MESH) Board also saw the need to retain residents and serve those needing care.

“We would not have done this had we not felt there was a need,” said Hunt Compton, immediate past grand master of Masons in Oregon.

Compton snipped the custom “grand opening” ribbon Friday, July 12 at the month-old facility in Forest Grove as about 30 board members, staff and affiliates looked on from the freshly-planted courtyard.

The Masons in Oregon and the Order of the Eastern Star established MESH as a residence for their aging members — of which it houses at least 16 — but it also provides care to people outside the societies.

“Our emphasis here is care,” said Anna Knecht, junior past grand matron of Eastern Star. “We know a lot of the people here very personally.”

In the month since the wing’s public open house, 10 residents moved into the 14 private and companion units, including four who transferred from other areas of Jennings McCall. Mark Remley, of Aidan Health Services, said he expects to fill the rest of the rooms within a couple months. Larson said the wing’s expandable design allows it to adapt to meet future demand.

“In another year, if the need is still there and we have people waiting, we have a plan in place to expand,” he said.

The MESH Board partnered with Design Structures in the 80-day construction project, and saw it completed on time and under the $750,000 budget.

“We talked about all these things and saw plans, but being here is so different,” Knecht said while touring the completed wing.

Cool colors and smooth flooring run throughout the wing’s kitchen and common areas, and may soon flow into the rest of Jennings McCall. Larson said the updated look was a small, and successful, test for a more comprehensive redesign.

“We were thoughtful about color schemes, furniture and décor,” Larson said. “Hopefully we can roll it into our community over the next 10 years.”

As residents settle into their new space, eight full-time staff members assist in caring for them. Larson said the caregivers took a standardized training course and moved into their new positions from within Jennings McCall. Last-minute tweaks and finishing touches will be finalized in coming weeks, but Larson and the MESH Board already look forward to further updates and additions.

“If we can manage our dollars well, we can continue to put it back into the property,” Larson said. “If we act as good stewards of our residents’ money, we can continue to serve them better.”

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