Vernon Broadcaster – October 6, 2017

Work has begun on the expansion of Bethel Oaks Memory Care Home in Viroqua.

Bethel Homes and Services held a groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 26; the projected completion date is July 2018.

Debbie Stout-Tewalt, CEO, said the plan is to have the cement poured and walls up before the weather gets cold, so the construction crews can work inside during the winter months.

The addition, which is located on the west side of Bethel Oaks, is Phase 2 of the project. Bethel Oaks, which is located at 620 Garfield Ave., opened in July of 2015 with 14 resident rooms.

The expansion includes 14 rooms, four of which will be private deluxe. The private deluxe rooms can accommodate a couple and are larger, allowing the residents an expanded living space.

“The first phase was its own household and the second phase is its own household,” Stout-Tewalt said. “When you have 28 people in a facility it gets to be too big; you lose the household feel. This is small enough to feel like home.”

She said the two separate households will be connected.

Stout-Tewalt said when people walk into the facility it will look like home with a living room, dining room and kitchen. The kitchen will be set up so residents can help with baking and the dining room will allow them to help set the table. “That’s where our folks come from; helping in the kitchen.”

The second phase will include a “snoezlin” room, which is a quiet room with special sensory adaptations. There will be dim lighting, special music, calming colors on the walls and textures in wall hangings.

“Some who suffer from dementia have great anxiety and are afraid of noise and commotion,” Stout-Tewalt said. “There will be quiet activities in the room. We are excited for that.”

Stout-Tewalt recently attended a conference in Green Bay where she learned about computer software called “It’s never too late.” Bethel Home is looking at building it into their programming.

“The program can be activity based and stimulating or it can be calming and relaxing,” Stout-Tewalt said. “We see it being used in the ‘snoezlin’ room but because it is transportable to other areas of the building, we can use it for reminiscing and education. It is so versatile.”

Stout-Tewalt said when Phase 1 of Bethel Oaks was built, Bethel Home and Services knew they would be expanding the facility.

“With the baby boomers and seniors dealing with dementia, we knew we would see an increase in growth,” she said. “We knew there was a demand.”

Staffing at the second Bethel Oaks household will be similar to the first.

“We will probably add 10 staff,” Stout-Tewalt said. “We are looking at an activities person to prepare activities, and looking for resident assistants and (will) put those folks through special training for dementia care.” Nursing hours will also be increased.

Another expansion for Phase 2 is that of the “Music and Memory” program. Bethel Oaks Memory Care Home was awarded a grant earlier this year to implement the program for the 14 residents currently living at Bethel Oaks.

Stout-Tewalt said residents have an iPod with music that’s personalized with their musical tastes, through input from the family. For example, music can be played when a resident is feeling anxious or needs help getting up in the morning.