HendersonvilleNews StoriesPete Zamplas

Cardinal Care soars with attentive services, varied activities


By Pete Zamplas –

Cardinal Care Center and Blue Ridge Retirement, sister assisted living facilities in Hendersonville, surge ahead with a determined blend of customized and attentive care and socially-invigorating activities.

The larger 60-bed Cardinal Care Center (CCC) provides assisted living for people 50 or elder who “function on their own to a good extent, but now need help,” said Chris Drake.

Drake is executive director for both facilities. CCC was built 25 years ago. It is at 1000 W. Allen St., two blocks west of Whitted Street. Its eldest resident is a man 102 years old.

Blue Ridge Retirement (BRR) with 42 beds is a few blocks away, at 913 Ninth Ave. W. across from Hendersonville Middle School. BRR residents vary more in age and are as young as their late thirties.

Their stays may be more temporary than at CCC. Many in BRR are gradually recovering physically, mentally and functionally from strokes or severe accident injuries, Drake said. “They’re usually very ambulatory (mobile) and can do much on their own, but they need care” in assisted living.

“Blue Ridge can do even closer-knit care,” Drake said. “It’s more of a feel of a group home, with some younger people, too.” Staying with others closer in age and capabilities is a bonus. “We try to match personalities,” business manager Hollie Jacobsen said. Drake said, “We try to house residents with like diagnosis. We don’t want anybody to feel embarrassed (around others more capable) and lose any dignity because they no longer know how to dress themselves properly.”

Brandie Wallen, as property manager, supervises BRR operations. Drake oversees her and reports to Georgia-based corporate regional head Sherry Lyle. She tracks eight facilities, in Florida, Georgia and the two local ones in the Tar Heel State.

Both facilities are trained to handle Alzheimer’s disease. “We don’t have a secure care/memory care unit for dementia” isolated from the rest of CCC, Drake said, “but we do handle it.” He noted Cardinal Care has a locked door with keypad entry, to prevent people wandering out. In contrast, Blue Ridge has freer access with keyless entry. Neither has skilled nursing.

“We don’t judge anybody, because of an illness or whatever,” Drake said. “Many folks are self-sufficient, when they initially come in. We meet their needs, to provide them a good transition.”

As their health and capabilities decline, residents might transfer from Blue Ridge to Cardinal, Drake said. “Their needs change, because of chemical (i.e. from dementia), emotional or mental factors. Cardinal provides a secure environment, and 24-hour, one-on-one care they can’t get at home.” Drake noted the switch may be the other way around for those proving to not be “exit seeking” (wandering out) as initially thought.

Respite, palliative and hospice care are offered in Cardinal. Most commonly, Drake said, “medical management is a prime need.” Examples are administering “sliding scale insulin for sugar regulation,” and a nebulizer that sprays medicine as a mist into the resident’s nostrils. This is to boost lung airflow and breathing, countering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Certified nursing assistants (CNA) are qualified to administer those sprays.

Cardinal employs an above-average portion of CNAs rather than lesser-trained personal care assistants (PCA) and “regular aides” for daily assistance, Drake said. “Many residents can often dress self, but can’t every day. When they forget with short-term memory gone from dementia, we’re there to assist them and maintain their dignity.” He noted how “folks have done these things all of their lives” and repetition from doctor-authorized physical therapy “instills a natural process and restorative functions.”

‘Holiday Inn’

“We try to accommodate everybody with activities, and the uniqueness in each of our buildings, to take care of a loved one in a comfortable setting,” Drake said.

Cheerfulness is a special ingredient, from staff and recreational and spiritual activities. Live musicians perform, at least once a week. There are weekly shopping treks. Small pets are welcome.

Resident Care Coordinator Kathy Wilson oversees medical and social care including regular activities. She is next in charge at CCC, where Drake is based.

Residents are impressed. “This feels like a Holiday Inn,” Frances “Frankie” Dixon said of her Cardinal Care room and care service. She brought in touches of home, such as an heirloom quilt and a photo of her parents. Dixon said that makes her stay more comfortable along with friendly staff, flat-screen TV, tasty food and interesting activities such as bingo. She appreciates live music such as a banjo player Friday, and also daily recorded music to listen to in the activities room.

When the weather warms, activities outside include a “pool party” at a “kiddy pool” and firing water pistols at each other for fun frolic. Wilson and Dixon said it is crucial to make residents as comfortable as possible with the setting, throughout the facility. Several praised the elegant dining room. Friday morning, bright sun filtered into Southern-exposed rooms to brighten ambience.

Dixon, 67, keeps spirits up despite her health challenges and routines. She goes off-campus, for kidney dialysis treatments. She has in her room an oxygen machine and tanks. Dixon has lived in CCC for seven months. She is in one of the regular rooms. CCC also has 10 higher-cost private suites.

Hendersonville High 1971 alumnus Drake went to junior high in the former Ninth Avenue School, across from Blue Ridge Retirement. So he is quite familiar with that block, and both facilities he now oversees. “I played in this area” growing up, he noted. CCC is tucked away on a lesser-traveled portion of West Allen.

The sister facilities are surviving the five-year Great Recession, business manager Jacobsen said. “We have done real well, even through the recession. Bigger hurdles are this year, with state rules and regulations changing everything — especially with Medicaid.” She said guidelines are tougher to qualify. “People don’t have that kind of money out of pocket” for long-term care. “Yet more and more can’t live alone, either.”

Call 693-3388 for more on Cardinal Care Center or Blue Ridge Retirement.

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