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A remodeling to remember at historic site in Farnham

Posted on Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 10:38 am


Residents at Commonwealth Assisted Living are all smiles as they participate in a groundbreaking ceremony at Farnham Manor.

Residents at Commonwealth Assisted Living are all smiles as they participate in a groundbreaking ceremony .

When you walk into Commonwealth Assisted Living at Farnham, a building rich in local history as a former school, you may not want to leave.

Vibrant carpeting, spacious rooms and bathrooms, restored furniture and walls colored in soft shades come together to serve as a safe and comforting home for senior citizens.

Pictures of the Hale family, the original owners of the assisted living building also known as Farnham Manor, now adorn a wall in the living room, which has been dedicated to the family as the Hale Room, to give the community a touch of home.

A little ways further into the Commonwealth Assisted Living facility, fond memories are elicited, relived and shared through the various decorations that can be discovered in the brand new memory care unit.

And a calming room, complete with dimmed lighting, a plush couch, a colorful bubble tube lamp and a wide-screen television is personalized for each resident to meet his or her needs.

It’s a series of visually stunning changes aimed at reinforcing the Farnham facility’s role as a safe and comfortable home for its residents.

“This is a total transformation,” Regional Director of Operations [Christina Driscoll] said at the grand opening. “But what I love is when I’m talking with the families, they’re saying it was just as good then as it is now. Because it’s the feel, it’s the love of the community more than anything.”

As the grand opening commenced and visitors toured the improved facility, residents gathered in the newly remodeled activity area for group games. They also came together for lunch in the redesigned dining room complete with chairs and tablecloth evoking the impression of a refined restaurant.

Seated at one table was Dorothy Zeller, 95, from Westmoreland County and her beloved daughter Shirley Barrett.

Zeller is retired from Levi Strauss and Company for several years; she was born and raised in Westmoreland County and loved to go fishing.

“She could catch the biggest fish, and I hated it because I never could catch anything!” Barrett laughed. “She loved fishing and she loved Bingo.”

Barrett said her mother taught her how to crochet and knit and that she knew how to make rugs and quilts.

Zeller had come to Farnham Manor in August, and Barrett said that she was “really happy” there.

“And I love it here also,” Barrett said. “They’re also nice to me here and that means a lot … everything is just wonderful.”

She said that the living community was “gorgeous” in appearance, that she had not experience any negative things in her experience there and that her mother had even gotten better since moving to Commonwealth Assisted Living at Farnham.

“And she eats, oh, she eats so well!” Barrett said. “Physically she’s really healthy. She doesn’t take much medication. And the food is good, too.”

Barrett said she would highly recommend the assisted living community in Farnham to everybody.

“And I’m very particular, too,” Barrett chuckled.

Driscoll said that the concept behind Commonwealth Assisted Living, which she called a “forward thinking company,” was that its residents would ideally never have to leave.

“So having that secure area in the neighborhood for them is so important,” Driscoll said, adding that residents with a propensity to wander now had the opportunity to do so in the community’s courtyard without leaving their home. The open and airy outdoor courtyard keeps the residents from feeling confined, Driscoll indicated, while also giving them a place for cookouts and other festivities.

“And really for us at Farnham, it’s about being a family,” Driscoll said. “We’ll do joint activities and they’ll share the dining room, which is really neat.”

With the enhancements to the facility realized, Driscoll said they had quite a few residents who were able to transfer right into the neighborhood happily, and that some of the worries of staff members had been alleviated.

“For the loved ones, the families, it’s peace of mind,” Driscoll said. “Because they know now that their loved one is here, they might not necessarily ever have to leave, because we do allow hospice providers to come in.”

Driscoll also stressed the necessity of the new memory care unit, a part of

Commonwealth Assisted Living’s “Sweet Memories” staple that focuses on residents with Alzheimer’s and other related dementias.

Earl Parker, Chief Operating Officer, said one of the neat aspects was of the assisted living community was continuing and preserving its history to serve the greater community in the local area. Facility leaders pointed out the community’s past as a schoolhouse and noted how some of the residents were the school’s former students.

“We have a resident who was a teacher here,” Parker said, with Driscoll adding how the residents who had participated in the groundbreaking ceremony were reminiscing about having been students at Farnham Manor.

“There are so many of the staff here who had worked here for years and years; there’s probably over 300 years of experience working in this building,” Parker said.  “It’s not something you see everyday, so we’re really proud of that.”

Commonwealth Assisted Living at Farnham is a licensed assisted living facility through the Virginia Dept. of Social Services. For more information, call 804-394-2102.


– Look for the Northern Neck News’ story on the ‘Sweet Memories’ program tomorrow, June 6. ‘A remodeling to remember at historic site in Farnham’ is slated to be included in an upcoming print edition of the newspaper.