Memory Haven to provide person-centered care

Sumner: Assisted-living facility to include up to 26 residents, smaller than industry standard

of the HeraldMarch 12, 2014 

At Memory Haven in Sumner, bedrooms are designed only for resting, clothing and bathing in order to encourage residents to congregate with others in the central living area.


People who are battling Alzheimer’s and those who care for them will have a new option for long-term care this spring.

On an acre of property, Memory Haven, which will include two cottage-style homes with 12 units each, will open its doors at 5107 Parker Road in Sumner.

“The average size for dementia care assisted living is 50 beds, so we’re very small,” administrator John Merz said. “We have very short corridors and 12 rooms centered around a kitchen, living room and dining room area. We know smaller is better for people with dementia, and with their cognitive decline, too much stimulation is not a good thing.”

There will be a companion suite in each building that will include two beds. The other 11 units in each building will be single occupancy.

Merz said rooms are established for sleeping, clothing and bathing in order to encourage residents to venture out into the common area.

“That central hub brings normalcy to their life,” Merz said. “Part of their disease process is they don’t eat any more, and when you cook in front of them, they can smell the food. We serve it family-style and have one family room dining table.”

Merz said the smell of food kicks in residents’ cravings.

“Cooking bread has a good aroma that may remind them of their past,” he said.

Merz is part of a three-person administrative team called Three Servant Care LLC, the operating company behind Memory Haven.

“Individually, we are active in our Christian faith, and that is part of our motivation,” he said.

Merz’s business partners are Henry Hayes and Marvin Rogers. Rogers has 25 years of experience in assisted living. Hayes’ background is in school administration.

Merz said he has more than 30 years in long-term care, and that includes skilled-nursing facilities and different levels of assisted living, with most of that being dementia.

“More importantly, I have a calling,” Merz said. “All of our people here have a calling.”

Karen Gooch, the director of resident care at Memory Haven, has been a registered nurse for 21 years. She comes from a surgical background but wants to work in long-term care, where she said she can spend more time with residents and provide them with personal care.

“We have a universal health care model at Memory Haven, and we want to provide superior care for residents,” Gooch said. “We want people to congregate and to be engaged in activities so that they’re not bored.

“My goal is to keep all residents extremely engaged, whether they’re washing dishes, vacuuming or folding laundry. I want to keep them busy doing things they remember doing when they were younger.”

Mary Jaynes, the community relations manager, is the other person on the Memory Haven team. She meets with residents and their families to assess their needs.

Merz said Memory Haven focuses on person-centered care, and providers know the residents intimately.

“A bio-board on their door tells the name of their children and grandchildren, where they worked for a living, what their hobbies and interests are, and what their morning routine is like,” he said. “The bio-board reminds them who they are and tells us who our patient is.”

Merz said reality is left at the door when they care for people who have dementia.

“We enter their world of reality,” he said. “We call it validation communication or validation therapy. We go into their world, and they no longer come into ours. We need to go into their world to meet their needs.”

Merz cited an example of what he called a therapeutic fib. He said if a resident asks if their mother is coming to visit that day, they may be told yes, even if their mother died 20 years ago.

In addition to the indoor living area, residents also are encouraged to enjoy the backyard portion of the property, where there is a gazebo and a raised garden for pulling weeds and planting vegetables and flowers.

To learn more

For more information, call John Merz at 253-750-0552 or visit

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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