by: TYLER FRANCKE | WOODBURN INDEPENDENT - One of Heartwood's two enclosed, interior courtyards is seen. The facility's courtyards, like its hallways, are configurated in a cicular design to prevent patients with memory loss from becoming lost.Heartwood Place Memory Care Community has been open in Woodburn for only about three weeks, but it’s been a busy three weeks.

“We’re inundated,” Terri Waldroff, managing partner and co-owner of Heartwood, said following a chamber-hosted ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility last week. “We’ve been giving tours like crazy. It’s been a zoo around here.”

Not that she’s complaining. Waldroff, who is also one of the owners of Benicia Senior Living — Heartwood’s parent organization — said her company manages two similar facilities, but the opening of the Woodburn location has been the busiest she’s seen.

“This is the most interest we’ve had for an opening,” she said. “We haven’t seen anything like this in a long time. It’s been absolutely wonderful.”

As to the cause of the high levels of interest, Waldroff said the market is ripe for senior care in Woodburn — a fact that attracted her and her partners to the area in the first place. Over the past decade, she said, there has been far more growth in the area’s senior population than there has been in the medical industry and infrastructure aimed at serving that population.

“There’s a gap there,” she said.

The $8.5 million, 2.65-acre facility on North Boones Ferry Road can house a maximum of 48 residents. Waldroff said her team had predicted it would take 12 to 18 months to reach full capacity, but based on the interest the new facility has seen thus far, she wouldn’t be surprised if it exceeds those projections.

And it’s not only potential residents and their families who have been intrigued by Heartwood’s opening.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of interest in employment at this facility,” she said. “It’s an excellent hiring marker.”

She said the location currently employs about 15 as part of its core team, but that number could increase to as much as 35 as its beds fill up.

During a tour of the facility last week, Waldroff explained that the building’s two identical wings are arranged in a circular layout bordering an interior courtyard. She noted that memory care patients “like to walk,” which can lead to trouble if they are in large, unsecured areas.

“Here, they can’t get lost,” she said. “They’ll always end up back where they started.”

Most of Heartwood’s residential units have a shared bathroom space, which helps make the cost of care more affordable, Waldroff said. Residents bring their own furniture and decorations to the facility.

“They feel like it’s home,” she said. “They can identify with their surroundings.”

This philosophy extends to Heartwood’s care model, which it calls the “best friend” approach. It’s an action-based program that involves “activity stations” custom designed for each resident.

For example, a resident who worked as an accountant might be designed an activity station with a typewriter and briefcase. A retired farmer, on the other hand, might be offered the chance to plant and grow something in the facility’s garden.

The community describes its services as “memory care,” but it goes a lot further than that.

“By the time people move in here, they need assistance with a lot of day-to-day activities,” Waldroff said. “It’s A to Z care.”

Heartwood does require its potential residents to be ambulatory (either unassisted or with the aid of a wheelchair or similar device) and capable of understanding and heeding basic instructions. However, the company also employs a geriatric doctor as its medical director, which Waldroff said allows them to accept residents with some “challenging behaviors” whom they might otherwise be unable to care for.

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