Parks’ Place Redefines Memory Care in Plymouth
Days before its grand opening, Karen Parks leads a tour of Parks’ Place in Plymouth. Chandeliers were going up. Paintings getting hung on walls. Furniture arranged and organized. Here, no detail was left untouched.
“Every paint color, every floor covering, every painting on the walls,” said Parks.
There’s a reason for the thoughtfulness of the design. Parks says Parks’ Place aims to redefine memory care.
The wall colors differentiate each wing, helping residents navigate to their rooms. The place is meant to feel like a family home.
“Part of what we say is by our family for your family,” Parks said.
Parks’ Place: Memory Care Redefined
Parks’ Place caters to people of different stages of dementia. The goal is to help those residents live to their ability. Families can visit as often as they like and are allowed to do more than provide support.
“We have a residential kitchen, this is a big piece of what we want to showcase,” said Parks. “Loved ones are allowed to cook with their loved one.”
Kaitlin Kelly, director of marketing at Parks’ Place, says the Plymouth facility rejects the traditional nursing home model of memory care.
“We want families to feel welcome here to visit their loved one because this is their home,” said Kelly.
Jerry Parks was 50 years old when his family started to notice something was not right. Jerry’s wife, Karen, and the couple’s four children had started noticing unusual signs of memory loss in their husband and father. Six years later Jerry learned he had an uncommon form of dementia.
“We had him retested and that’s when he was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s,” said Karen.
Only about five percent of people develop signs of Alzheimer’s before age 65. Before the diagnosis, Jerry was at the height of his career, as a vice president at Mortenson Construction.
“Alzheimer’s is not a disease for one person. It is an entire family disease. It affects everyone,” Karen said.
The Parks family set out to change how society treats people with Alzheimer’s. They successfully lobbied the Social Security Administration to expedite disability benefits. Karen and Jerry also went to Washington, D.C., six years in a row to push for more funding for Alzheimer’s research. Their effort helped lead to the passage of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, signed into law in 2011.
But the Parks family didn’t stop there. They wanted better care. The idea for Parks’ Place was born.
“I’m hoping that it will come to other people and have the same opportunities to do what I’ve had,” said Jerry.
“Dementia is Not Normal Aging”
Kaitlin Kelly got to know Jerry and the Parks family through her work on an Alzheimer’s research study at the University of Minnesota. Kelly says Alzheimer’s and dementia are diseases that are often misunderstood.
“Dementia is not normal aging for adults. It’s not something that just happens when you get old. It’s a disease, it is not normal,” she said.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s and dementia are diseases that plague almost 100,000 Minnesotans.
“It’s Kind of Magical”
The first residents of Parks’ Place move in this week. The facility conducts an assessment on each resident before he or she moves in to determine level of care. Parks’ Place provides four different care levels. Pricing is determined by care needs. Parks Place has 30 rooms and enough space to house up to 36 residents. Jerry Parks will be one of them.
“Their story is so inspirational about finding a place for Jerry,” said Kelly. “They just made it happen. It’s kind of magical.”
For Jerry Parks it will be a place to share with his 11 grandchildren.
“A lot of times I lay on the floor. And the kids pile on top of me,” Jerry laughed.
The disease may be robbing his short-term memory, but it hasn’t robbed his heart.
“I love to play with the kids,” said Jerry.
For Karen Parks, it’s the culmination of a long journey.
“Most importantly, we want everyone to be treated as an individual,” said Parks. “We want family to feel welcome here. And to feel that they are part of this.”