Diane Biggs and Betty Jo Collins were best friends for 30 years and used to travel together on motorcycles around the country.
"We also traveled all over the world with Betty's husband," Ms. Biggs said on Friday. But about a year ago, Ms. Collins, who now suffers from dementia, came to live at The Prestige Estates Luxury Assisted Living and Memory Care facility on Paluxy Drive in Tyler. Ms. Biggs, along with several other close friends, serves as a caregiver for her best friend.
Two months ago, Ms. Collins moved to Memory Care, and it was a good move and a blessing, Ms. Biggs said. "She loves it -- she showed me the onion seeds and plants at the last visit," Ms. Biggs said, speaking about the vegetable plants that grow at Memory Care.
The facility had its grand opening Friday and the public was invited to view the same memories that serve as such a comfort to those with dementia. The new wing features onion, strawberry and tomato plants, a 1950s malt shop, a putting green, a workshop, and special visiting rooms decorated with antiques and comfortable furniture from certain time periods, including World War II.
The idea is to keep someone suffering from dementia comfortable by returning them to a safe place in their lives, author and designer Jolene Brackey said on Friday.
Ms. Brackey, who is also an interior designer and motivational speaker, helped plan and design the new wing at Prestige.
"I know memories are triggered by sights and sounds -- memories of their wedding day and their first boyfriend -- it puts them in a place that makes them feel good," Ms. Brackey said.
In her book "Creating Moments of Joy," she talks about visiting with an Alzheimer's patient by bringing them something to hold, such as a quilt or a bowl of ice cream. "It's a way to connect. The book, originally published in 1999, is now in its fourth printing, she said.
Ms. Brackey said her goal was to make people think differently about people with Alzheimer's disease. Her advice to loved ones is to "be whoever they think you are."
"We aren't here to fix it -- we are just here to make them feel good," she said.
Jo Anne McMeans, community relations director at Prestige, said she wants the facility to be a point of contact for loved ones of those who are dealing with dementia.
"We want to thank the community for their understanding and support of our patients," she said.
For more information about patients with Alzh-eimer's disease, go to www.prestigeestates.net or the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County at www.alzal liance.org.
visitors tour Prestige Estates Luxury Assisted Living and Memory Care during the grand opening of their new memory facility on Friday. (Shannon Wilson/Staff)