ENCINITAS — Since 1966, the Olivenhain Guest Home has been committed to providing a home-like atmosphere for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other memory care issues.
Flash forward 50 years later and the facility has tripled in size and the number of clients has tripled, but the current proprietors are still committed to the same level and intimacy of care.
“The fact that it has been here for 50 years is a tribute to the three different owners, who have all seen this as an evocation rather than a job,” said Henry Kurtz, who co-owns the facility with his wife, Suzanne. “They couldn’t find a place that provided the care they were looking for their loved ones, so they built one. And we continue to build on that legacy.”
The Olivenhain Guest Home currently serves 42 clients in the 15,300-square-foot facility off of Cole Ranch Road in Olivenhain. The facility recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and the owners believe it is the oldest assisted living facility of its kind in Encinitas.
From the outside, it looks more like a large ranch estate than a medical care facility.
Trudy Arsenault, an administrator at the facility, said this is by design. They want the facility to feel like home for the clients, many of who are at their most vulnerable point, as their memories and their mental capacities fade. Staff-to-client ratios remain above industry standards, and the care is around the clock.
“From the time they wake up, we are giving them love and attention,” Arsenault said. “We see them as a family member, not a client.”
And for the Kurtz’s, the reasons for their involvement are personal. Suzanne, a family counselor by trade, saw both of her parents suffer from memory-care related ailments: her mother had Alzheimer’s and her father had stroke-induced dementia. Henry’s mother needed help after her husband died and lived with her son on and off for a decade.
These experiences made them committed to providing the same level of care for others as they did their families, which prompted them to take over the facility in 2005.
During that time, they oversaw the expansion, which received unanimous city council support and buy-in from the community a few years ago. The expansion was completed in 2012.
Henry said meals are made on site with locally source ingredients and vegetables and fruits grown fresh in the garden, and the calendar is stocked full of engaging activities from sunrise to sunset.
Suzanne said it is fulfilling to see both the patient and their family thrive once in the Guest Home setting. Families at times are apprehensive or even feel guilty about putting their family members in home settings, but Suzanne said they soon find that doing so allows them to become closer in their relationship.
“Sometimes you are so wrapped up in being a caregiver that you forget to be a daughter, a sister, a father or a mother,” Suzanne said. “We find that clients feel less of a burden on their families, and the families can go back to being families.”