Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Ivey reaching out to fading memories

Lynn Ivey had built a substantial career after 25 years of banking, when her mother, Nancy, suffered a series of mini strokes in 2004 and was ultimately diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Ivey could hear her father's tired voice as he tried to care for her mother. So she took a six-month leave from Bank of America, where she was a senior vice president, and went back to her native Wilmington to look after her parents.

She knew nothing about caring for someone whose memory was fading, and set out to educate herself about the array of facilities that care for not only the patient, but the caregiver.

Through officials at the local Alzheimer's Association, she learned about assisted living programs, home care and day care for adults. Assisted living was out. Ben and Nancy Ivey were adamant they'd remain in their home of 46 years.

So Ivey convinced her father that a combination of home care and day care was the way to go.

For both of them, she said. The home care nurses arrived mornings and helped get her mother up. They fed her and helped her take her (medications). Then they took her to adult day care.

"That gave Dad the whole day off to refresh," Ivey said. "He napped, he saw friends. And when he picked up Mom in the afternoon, he was refreshed and eager to keep life as normal as possible."

A month before her leave was up, she decided not to return to the bank. Instead, she used what she'd learned to design a for-profit, upscale daycare center for cognitively and functionally impaired adults and their caregivers.

There are nearly a dozen certified adult day-cares in Mecklenburg, most of them nonprofits, but none in south Charlotte, Ivey said.

Using money from investors and loans, The Ivey (a tribute to her parents) broke ground on Park South Drive in the SouthPark area in October 2006 -- the same week her mother died. It was designed to look like a mountain retreat, a one-stop resource offering daytime social and therapeutic services from exercise classes to managing medications. It served up gourmet meals, had a patio with putting green, whirlpool tubs, woodworking shop, a rocking chair porch with gas-burning fireplace, and crafts and relaxation rooms.

The 11,000-square-foot center opened for business in January 2008, and Ivey waited for clients to flock to her facility.

They didn't.

"I was a naive entrepreneur who expected people to line up, waiting to come in," Ivey said. "It was a perfect storm. The people didn't come as we had expected. And then the economy tanked."

So, this year, Ivey rearranged her business model and turned the center into a nonprofit facility to reach a broader market. "Our goal is to serve as many people as we can possibly reach out to," she said. "By forming a nonprofit, the community could feel a sense of ownership and help support it."

Bill Hogue was a client before he died recently. He'd spend 35 years at Lance Inc., when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. His wife, Mary Anne, wanted to keep him living at home, but as his disease progressed that became challenging. Her job required travel, and she worried about his safety.

They found The Ivey. "Though Alzheimer's disease was chipping away at his life, I felt great joy at being able to keep him at home," Mary Anne Hogue said. "Bill considered The Ivey 'his club,' and I could continue my career with peace of mind."

Ivey, now partnering with the Western Carolinas chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, says the center is "on a cliff" again, as it continues to apply for grants and seek other forms of funding so it can serve people regardless of their ability to pay.

She's trying to raise $440,000 this fall to triple her clients and help reach out to the 10,000 Mecklenburg families affected by Alzheimer's alone.

"These people are real people," she said. "They deserve dignity and a quality life. How you deal with them requires a special touch. Alzheimer's knows no socio-economic status, and neither does this facility.

"Aging challenges affect everyone."

To donate or get more information, call Lynn Ivey at The Ivey at 704-909-2070; or email


Debbie said...

I visited The Ivey in February to write a paper for my Master's work in Gerontology. It is a wonderful establishment and everyone there genuinely cares. Nothing has been overlooked as far as the facility, the program or the patients - they come first and their comfort, their learning, and their care is top notch. I hope the new model works and I will certainly contribute - we will all face elder care issues someday and the decisions are tough; it's good to have choices and support.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article. The Coltrane LIFE Center, the only adult day care health services facility in Cabarrus County, has been a Godsend to our family. Places like The Ivey and the Coltrane Center provide quality of life to our loved ones while giving us caregivers a chance to work, do errands, and have some respite. It's a win-win for all concerned. We need more of them as the population ages. These people after working hard all their lives and making sacrifices deserve the best of care. A worthy cause.