Respite Program Hosts Grand Reopening After Pandemic Shutdown

After closing for 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Caring Place of Hot Springs held a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 13.

The respite program for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia reopened in July 2021 after refreshing the building with a patio and garden, new paint and the installation of a Needlepoint GPS bipolar ionization system, which purifies the air of pollutants, dust, allergens, molds, bacteria and viruses including the coronavirus.

“We just worked really hard to make sure the community knows we’re alive and well and open,” said Nina Alter, the facility’s new manager.

With more than 30 years of experience in elder care, Alter was named director of The Caring Place last month.

“I knew The Caring Place before,” she told The Sentinel-Record. “I had been in the senior housing industry and had many residents over the years who came to visit The Caring Place.”

Alter said she understands why some attendees and volunteers who visited the facility before the pandemic may be hesitant to even return again. They take many precautions, including requiring all attendees, staff and volunteers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, she said.

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Licensed and regulated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, The Caring Place began in the basement of First United Methodist Church in 1992 and moved to its current location at 101 Quapaw Ave. after the church donated the building to the program, said board chair Joyce Whitfield in her opening remarks.

Hot Springs Mayor Pat McCabe, president and CEO of Levi’s Hospital, congratulated the reopening of The Caring Place, noting that he remembered when the church offered Levi’s Hospital to help him run The Caring Place.

“We have deep roots there and we care about this organization and the mission it serves,” he told attendees. “These kinds of programs are so vital. It allows carers of loved ones at home to rest a bit during the day, to run and do errands that they might not otherwise be able to do.

“The fact that it was closed for 18 months during COVID has only put a lot of stress on these families. We know that many of those loved ones who were here 18 months ago are not here today. and so we’re going to reach out to the community and serve and see what it all brings.”

The Caring Place had about 25 attendees before closing, Alter said, noting that the establishment now has 13 but is allowed to serve up to 50.

Activities and meals are offered to attendees Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Alter said at the ceremony.

“But mostly, I think what we’re doing is taking care of these people and taking care of the family,” she said. “Families are trying to provide an environment for these people who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and we can step in and have these people here for the day Monday through Thursday in an environment where they are safe, loved and fed.”

Hot Springs Mayor Pat McCabe addresses the crowd during the grand reopening of The Caring Place after the establishment was closed for 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. – Photo by Donald Cross from The Sentinel-Record
photo Nina Alter, who was named director of The Caring Place last month, talks about raising awareness that the facility is open after an 18-month closure during the pandemic. – Photo by Donald Cross from The Sentinel-Record

Ryan H. Bowman