The history of Alabama’s Black Belt is as rich as the soil for which it’s named. While rows of crops continue to grow in the fertile fields, the region lacks many of the health care services other parts of the state take for granted.

A skilled nursing care center in Pickens County is doing its part to change that by opening a specialized unit to care for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Aliceville Manor Nursing Home officially unveiled Countryside Garden Memory Care Unit to the community at an open house on April 22.

“Our mission is to serve the long-term health care needs of the community, and it’s been that way since we opened in 1975,” Aliceville Manor Nursing Home Administrator Mark Wheat said. “Over the past few years, we’ve noticed more and more people needing special care for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s and dementia. That’s why we decided to open this memory care unit.”

Covered patio, walking track in the private courtyard for Countryside Garden Memory Care Unit at Aliceville Manor Nursing Home.

Covered patio, walking track in the private courtyard for Countryside Garden Memory Care Unit at Aliceville Manor Nursing Home.

The plans for Countryside Garden Memory Care Unit began in 2015. A portion of Aliceville Manor was renovated to create a dining room and an activity/multi-purpose room. A local artist painted murals of rural settings along the hallways and in common areas. The private courtyard has a nearly 500 square foot covered patio and a walking track. The unit accommodates up to 12 people who are cared for by specially trained staff members.

“The most important part of this project is training our staff to care for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Wheat said. “The nurses and support staff conduct activities throughout the day that are centered around a common theme. This puts the residents at ease which makes it easier to administer medical treatments.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 89,000 Alabamians have Alzheimer’s and the number is predicted to grow to 110,000 by 2025. Nationally, more than five million people are living with Alzheimer’s and it is the sixth leading cause of death.

Editor’s Note: Aliceville Manor Nursing Home Administrator Mark Wheat was the focus of an article related to the Alabama Nursing Home Association’s 65th Anniversary. You can read that article here.