Residents must find new accommodations by May 29
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Atmore-area senior citizens who can no longer completely care for themselves will have one less residency option at the end of this month when Country Place Senior Living closes its doors.
The assisted living facility, which opened here in November 2015 with plans to provide a “welcoming, well-designed, homelike environment” focused on the needs of older adults, reportedly never had more than a dozen residents at one time. That shortage skewed the financial projections of its parent company, Country Place Homes, and prevented it from operating in a profitable manner.
“We decided to close Country Place Senior Living in Atmore due to challenges with sustaining operational margins,” said Ariel Herr of Hargrove Partnership, the public relations and marketing firm that handles the company’s media relations. “It was not an easy choice, and we recognized it would be difficult for and affect many members of our Atmore community, including residents, their loved ones and our staff.”
Herr said the company, which also operates seven other residences in Alabama as well as three in Texas, informed residents or their families, as well as the facility’s 13-member staff several weeks ago that the center would cease doing business on May 29.
The announcement gave Country Place’s elderly occupants little more than a month to find new homes, a situation that did not set well with the families of some.
“There was nothing proper at all about how this was handled,” said Bryan Keel of Atmore, who was forced along with his wife, Kathy, to find new permanent lodgings for her parents. “A regional manager showed up on Monday, April 23, called all of the tenants into the common area and handed them each an envelope informing them that they had thirty days to vacate and that Country Place would move them to a Country Place facility in Brewton or elsewhere and would pay up to $500 (of the relocation costs).”
Greg Nix of Atmore said he moved his mother into to another assisted living facility before the announcement of the impending Country Place closure. And, while he felt that she received proper care while she was a Country Place resident, the way in which the upcoming shutdown was announced made him re-examine the situation.
“Overall, the service there was OK,” he said. “I thought the way they handled things was a little underhanded, although I’m not sure that’s the word I’m looking for. But looking back, I can see some things that I didn’t before. Overall, I would give the whole situation a B-minus or a C-plus.”
Herr said Country Place-Atmore’s eight fulltime and five part-time employees were offered employment at Country Place’s Brewton facility.
“When we informed our staff and residents about the closing, we told our eight full time and five part-time employees that there would be positions available at our Brewton residence, which they could discuss with the administrator,” she said.
Keel said he felt the staff, which he said did a more than adequate job of caring for his wife’s parents, got the same dose of cold comfort as the residents.
“There was no consideration for the ages of the people being evicted, most of them are in their 90s, or for the staff,” he said.
He added that the decision to close the local assisted living center was a major inconvenience for all the residents and their families.
“It has been very inconvenient and stressful for us and for Kathy’s brother and wife, but mostly stressful for Giles and Kathryn Chapman, who are 90 and 93 years old,” he said. “This is a very bad thing on many levels: the impact on the tenants; the impact on their families; the impact to their workers, and the impact on the community of Atmore, because they are needed to serve our citizens. They just didn’t live up to their promises to the city of Atmore to provide quality service to all.”
Keel and Nix agreed that the facility’s inability to turn a profit didn’t surprise them, as each felt the company never properly promoted the local facility.
“All of this was the result of the first two directors not doing anything to advertise the place,” Keel said. “They didn’t place ads in either local paper, any surrounding area paper, the local town magazines or radio. None of that is the fault of the tenants, and if Country Place had done what is right, they would have hired someone to promote their facility and get it up to the necessary occupancy.”
“The bottom line is that they couldn’t keep enough people in there to make it a feasible business,” Nix said. “They might have overestimated the people here because they never had more than eight or ten [residents] at any given time.”
Herr, who said the company was “working with an agent” to try and sell its Atmore building, expressed the company’s remorse at having to leave the community.
“It has been our pleasure to serve Atmore for nearly three years,” she said. “We have formed countless meaningful relationships with the many local families that have come through our doors as they have struggled with the challenges of caring for an aging loved one. It is with a heavy heart that we leave this wonderful community.”