Adult day center caters to people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other illnesses

Stephen Frank now has time for the gym without having to worry about his wife.

The 80-year-old caretaker has signed up with Ardent Manor, a new adult day center in Naples, to take care of his wife three mornings each week. Frank’s 78-year-old wife was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease a year ago.

“The people are great,” Frank said. “Now I have a little more time. If this works out, I may switch to where she is here the whole day to give me time to play golf.”

Ardent Manor opened Sept. 21 at 2900 U.S. 41 N., in a 2,600-square-foot building that formerly was occupied by a jewelry store.

Its founders, Dan and Helen Waite, decided to fulfill a dream of opening an adult day center in Naples after relocating back to the area from Miami. Dan Waite had lost his job in South Beach in March as a hotel executive and they figured the time was right to take the plunge, his wife said.

“He used his severance package,” Helen Waite, 51, said. “We used every dime that we had to make this happen.”

When the couple lived in Miami, Helen Waite worked for a company where her job was to connect corporations wanting to do some community service with appropriate charities, nursing homes or social service. Every time she walked into an adult day center in Miami, she saw how happy the people were and how fulfilling the work could be for the employees.

Ardent Manor opened with a handful of clients and another dozen last week were in the process of enrolling, either for half days or full days during the week.

“We call them guests for the day,” Dan Waite, 39, said.

The day center caters to people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other illnesses when the clients need some supervision. But it doesn’t offer medical care.

“It is a step between home and an assisted living facility,” Dan Waite said, adding that they get information from a prospective client’s physician and do an assessment to see if Ardent Manor is an appropriate place for each individual.

“If they are acting out, this is probably not the place for them,” he said. “They must still be ambulatory and still able to feed themselves. They might need some assistance or supervision. We are not a medical facility.”

The only other adult day center in Collier County is The Care Club in Golden Gate, which is licensed to care for 41 adults with Alzheimer’s or other memory disorders.

The Waites were surprised there are no other adult day centers in Collier. Ardent Manor is licensed for 32 clients.

Millennium House of Southwest Florida in Bonita Springs is another adult day center.

“I think day care is a wonderful alternative to families,” said Steve Edmonston, a family consultant with the Alzheimer’s Support Network in Collier County, adding that he believes there is a need for the additional center. “There are a lot of folks in the general Naples area who could use it.”

Even for a client, the day center activities provide stimulation and a sense of purpose that can be vital for their well-being, he said.

The Waites invested $100,000 into the endeavor, and began working on the project in March. Besides having to meet Naples’ building code rules, licensing is from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Sept. 15 with Naples Mayor Bill Barnett.

The center has five themed rooms for different activities. There is a main activities room for light exercises and socializing, a library, game room, dining room and quiet room. The center provides breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack. Two staff members are certified food safety managers and all menus are approved by a registered dietician. The center can accommodate special dietary needs.

Clients typically have Alzheimer’s, dementia or simply need some interaction, Dan Waite said.

They watch movies, do light exercises, play games, listen to music and socialize. Some of the activities provide memory and mental stimulation, he said.

There are five staff members, including a registered nurse and certified nursing assistant, for a staffing ratio of one employee for every six clients.

“Our youngest guest is 68 and the oldest is 91,” Dan Waite said of clients.

The couple have leased the building for three years with renewal options.

“They (the owners) said they are not going to let us leave,” Dan Waite said.

Waite wants to franchise Ardent Manor with other locations from Sarasota south to West Palm Beach.

The fees are $85 for a full day with two meals and a snack or $55 for a half day with one meal and one snack, Helen Waite said.

Clients can be on the Medicaid waiver program or have long-term care insurance to pay the cost, she said. The Waites are planning seasonal discounts and membership rates.

“We want to be part of the solution,” she said of the dilemmas that caregivers face. “In this journey we can be a stop along the way. There are plenty of options to consider and this might be one.”

* * *

Frank, the East Naples resident and caretaker for his wife, said they looked at the Care Club a few months ago but they were told his wife was “not ready” for the day center.

When they returned Sept. 13 from a trip, they learned about Ardent Manor.

“We came to the open house,” Frank said, adding that’s when they decided to have his wife start spending mornings three days a week there.

“She has lost a lot of her concentration and at home there isn’t much for her to do now,” he said.

MaryAnn O’Donnell, 73, is the caretaker for her mother, Bertha Wachowski, 91, who has dementia.

O’Donnell used to be an usher at the Naples Philharmonic but took a leave of absence a year ago and realized that her mother needed more structure.

“We kind of looked at (an adult center) in Bonita Springs but it was just too far away and we drove by here and saw it was opening up,” O’Donnell said. “The rest is history. She is really, really happy here. They are just caring people, wonderful people.”

Before she started bringing her mother to Ardent Manor five days a week for the full day, her mother sat at home and had lost interest in hobbies that used to make her happy, like crocheting.

“Now they are stimulating her,” O’Donnell said. “I think Naples really needed a place like this.”

* * *

For more information about Ardent Manor, call (239) 435-9526 or send an e-mail to

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