It’s been nearly a century since a few members of the Lutheran Church bought the former Coeur d’Alene College for $40,000 in gold coins in order to create a care facility that welcomed all.
“The founding members of the Lutheran church had always intended the facility to be open to the community and not exclusively for Lutherans,” explained Amy Boni, director of development. “In 1972, it was established that corporate church sponsorships would replace the individual ownership, and 12 local churches from different denominations were added.”
Today that number stands at 19 and is the backbone of what keeps Orchard Ridge such a special place. “These churches provide not only financial help but board members for governance and prayer for spiritual support. From communion to church services throughout the week, our faith is the cornerstone at Orchard Ridge,” said Boni.
Over the decades, the former college campus has seen many updates to the buildings and grounds. In the 1970s, Heritage Place (now called The Grove) was constructed as one of the first HUD subsidized facilities in the area to provide a safe and secure independent housing option for the elderly. The Garden, a newly built assisted living community building was opened in 2006 and features various levels of care from simple meal delivery to much more advanced plans. “Our specialized memory care is for residents who are experiencing varying stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia or who require a high level of care. Our skilled caregivers are trained and certified through our dementia training program and are equipped to address the needs of these special residents,” said Boni. While being a daily challenge for patient and caregiver, the compassion is shared as former activities worker and now admission director Tiffany Pettit recalls:
“One of my most cherished memories [was] making a connection with a man who was very far along in the process of dementia. In his younger years he was an avid outdoorsman who was full of life and activity. He was a shell of his former self. He seldom would speak or make eye contact. I found that he was more calm and relaxed when I was able to get him out into our beautiful garden. He would take a deep breath of fresh air and was more at peace. He was not able to walk anymore and spent much of the day in his wheelchair. On a warm summer day, I took him out to the garden, took his socks and shoes off and put his feet in the grass. He wiggled his toes, made eye contact with me and smiled a huge grin. Something so simple that we take for granted every day opened up his world. It was only for a few moments, but at that moment I saw that young man who loved the outdoors.”
The Village at Orchard Ridge is able to provide unique experiences through the many grants it receives from the community and its partners. A grant from Coeur d’Alene Rotary allowed the creation of the Snoezelen multi-sensory room in the Memory Care Unit. The space is designed to help reduce agitation and anxiety and stimulate using a variety of sensory engagement. It has often been used for children with mental and physical disabilities but has also been found helpful in soothing adults with Alzheimer’s and other dementias—especially those who experience wandering or agitation with escalated behaviors. “It is a fantastic alternative to medication as a means of calming down a troubled resident,” said Boni. Another grant from the Women’s Gift Alliance helped build Serenity Garden right outside the doors of Memory Care. This therapy garden was specifically designed for residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Those in the greater Coeur d’Alene community are often stopping by to volunteer their hours and entertain guests, even if they don’t have a family member currently residing at The Village at Orchard Ridge. The Lake City Tappers, the 3 Cs, and many school choirs come in over the course of the year to sing. The Full Bloom organization provides flowers for residents in little bouquets throughout the year, and the American Legion group provides a Veteran’s Day program.
As the population continues to age, so does the demand for specialized care. Orchard Ridge has the highest number of Medicaid rooms in Kootenai County. “Since October 1, we have had to turn away 30 requests for Medicaid rooms due to lack of availability,” explained Boni.
While they unfortunately don’t have the space to meet current demand, there will never be discrimination based upon someone’s ability to pay. “As a nonprofit, we are able to provide charitable care to those residents who need it the most. Many of those residents reside in our memory care community and have depleted all of their life savings and depend solely on Medicaid. We cover the gap between what Medicaid reimburses and the actual cost of care. That gap is approximately $520,000 per year,” said Boni. “Financial support is secured through our wonderful individual donors, as well as businesses and organizations, grants and our member churches. Our ability to enhance the lives of residents depends upon the support of our generous community.”