Regency Manor is 175

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It opened in 1833 as the Franklin County Poor House, founded by the county commissioners to take care of the less fortunate.

"They were called inmates," related Steve Rosedale, founder and CEO of CommuniCare Health Services. "No one wants to be an inmate."

Over the next 175 years, the facility expanded to include the county infirmary, that cared for the elderly, infants and children, the mentally ill and the homeless. In 1968 it became the Alum Creek Nursing Home.

Under the management of CommuniCare since 1991, it has operated as Regency Manor Rehabilitation and Subacute Center, occupying 290,000 square feet and offering 275 beds on 16 acres on Alum Creek Drive.

More important than its physical expansion, the center has evolved from its earliest days to provide the best medical care in a humane atmosphere.

You have to heal the soul as well as the body, Rosedale said at the April 3 ceremony to mark the 175th anniversary. "It’s not as tough when you have a smile and a hug to make you feel special. If you forget that, you become an institution."

The original residents were given a spoon as the single example of the community’s generosity.

Historic records on display at Regency Manor, dating from the turn of the 20th century, show that a hospital stay cost $7, and the charge for burial was $30.

A lot has changed in that time.

Regency Manor now offers short and long-term nursing care for illnesses ranging from diabetes to physical and mental disabilities.

"This building is as close to a hospital as you can get without being in a hospital," explained Executive Director Tim Johnson.

Most patients leave within 90 days, he said. Regency Manor had around 600 admissions last year.

It has the only combination 32-bed ventilator-weaning and dialysis unit in the region, drawing patients from Michigan to Florida.

Patients in need of physical and occupational therapy will find themselves on Easy Street, providing "a real-world environment" for learning to function independently, according to Brandon Schimmler, director of therapy at Regency Manor.

This unit boasts everything from an automobile, for practice getting in and out of a vehicle, to a golf course, a post office, and a grocery store, along with two gyms.

The center is also using Wii video games, which require the player to move, in its physical rehab program.

Clients range from those with physical disabilities to cognitive difficulties caused by a stroke or other injuries to the brain.

They not only learn to navigate the obstacles that the rest of us take for granted, such as curbs and other raised surfaces, but they also master the mental tasks of reading a bus route at the COTA station, or following a grocery list.

The center also has a 22-bed Alzheimer’s unit, and has recently expanded its behavioral care unit from 32 to 96 beds, for adults with emotional challenges, that are often accompanied by a medical diagnosis.

Units have enclosed courtyards that allow patients to enjoy the outdoors. Numerous fish tanks and bird cages throughout add to the calming, colorful and home-like atmosphere.

Respite care is offered to caregivers who need a break from the demanding tasks of looking after a loved one.

All of these functions are overseen by a staff of 300.

Johnson noted that one of the unique aspects of Regency Manor is the longevity of its staff, one of whom, Tom Hall, has worked at the facility for 42 years without missing a day.

Employee of the Year Erica Houston, a resident aide for eight years, was honored at the ceremony.

"Right here is where my heart is," Houston said. "To be in this business, you have to have a humble heart."

Nurturing employees as well as patients is one of the lessons CommuniCare learned when it acquired the center, Rosedale said. "To take care of the patients, you have to take care of the staff."

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