BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The facility at 751 E. Tamarack Trail comes with its own request: that the building brings strength and comfort to all who enter.

The latest incarnation of Jill’s House, run by House Investments, has vowed to take up that charge. Set to receive its first residents by early October, the 33-room assisted living center will continue serving the public in memory of Jill Kristen Behrman and Steve Howard. Although the building has been transitioned from a nonprofit facility serving cancer patients to a company specializing in assisted living and memory care, the pledge remains.

“We’re staying true to the original mission,” said Heather Kinderthain, the Jill’s House community relations coordinator. “We want to continue to honor Steve and Jill in all that we do.”

After Peg and Bud Howard’s son Steve died of cancer, Peg sought a way to ease the struggles placed on cancer patients’ families. Three months after Steve’s death, Peg rallied the health care community to find a way to support patients and their families. After the Howards learned of the proposed Proton Therapy Center at IU, they started a seven-year effort to establish a residence center for that underserved group.

As the funds for such a facility were being raised, friends of the Howard family were struck by tragedy. Marilyn and Eric Behrman’s 19-year-old daughter, Jill, disappeared in 2000 while on a bicycle ride. To help keep the memory of Jill alive, the Howards named their facility — built on donated land by funds raised through Jill’s House Inc. and community donations — in honor of Behrman in 2008. The facility served more than 600 cancer patients and their families in the six and a half years it was open.

“There was a map on the wall with push pins from all over the world, signifying the people that came there for affordable housing for proton treatment,” said Gary Scott, a member of Jill’s House LLC, the company that took over the facility when Jill’s House Inc. began accruing debt.

“The banks were coming down hard on them,” Scott said. “The mission was great, and they helped a lot of people, but the numbers were not.”

When IU’s Proton Therapy Center closed in 2014, the operation was no longer sustainable. For about a year, Jill’s House sat vacant, until Doug Sylvester and House Investments re-envisioned the property as helping to satisfy a need for memory care and assisted living facilities in the area.

Where there were four kitchens, there is now a commercial kitchen and a family kitchen for residents to continue their culinary pursuits. The facility has been coated in a new layer of paint, has had its support networks updated and has been transformed into 33 single- or double-room options that can handle a maximum occupancy of 40 residents.

“We really liked the previous use of the building, and we liked the idea that we could continue the use of the building and its intent in a different way,” said Nicole Bays, the director of operations for the current Jill’s House.

The expected residents range in needs from those who require assistance with daily tasks to those who just don’t feel comfortable living alone. The facility has the same layout as many residential homes, with a living room and dining area at the front and residents’ bedrooms grouped in “neighborhoods” of six to eight in the rear. Each neighborhood will be assigned a floor nurse and two care partners — not caregivers, as many facilities use, but assistants who help residents in their daily tasks.

“I think we’ve sort of promoted helplessness when we didn’t mean to,” Bays said. “It occurred to me that it’s important for folks to contribute in a meaningful way, every day.”

“We’ve been talking about culture change in long-term care since I’ve been in long-term care, and I’m excited to see that change,” Kinderthain said.

The changes already made to Jill’s House may be small, but its staff hope to make a greater change in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. An ongoing garage sale that started this past Saturday already has raised more than $1,000 to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, and on Sept. 18, Jill’s House will sponsor and participate in the 2016 Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

“We want people to age in place,” Bays said. “Once you come here, it’s your home, and you can stay here.”

Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times,

Information from: The Herald Times,

This is an Indiana Exchange story shared by The (Bloomington) Herald-Times.