NAPLES — Ardent Manor Adult Day Center is starting the new year with good fortune.
That's something the local owners, Helen and Dan Waite, and their loyal clients were hoping for but it was far from certain a few weeks ago.
Their rental building at 2900 U.S. 41 N. in Naples was being sold and the Waites were informed in mid-November that they wouldn't be given a new lease. They sent letters to clients' families, caretakers of elders with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, that the last day of operation would be Dec. 16.
But a Christmas miracle was set in motion and delivered this past Tuesday. An investment buyer closed on the building and confirmed in writing an earlier verbal commitment that Ardent Manor could stay.
"We literally got a one-sentence email that the buyer intended to extend our lease upon closing," Dan Waite said.
"We have a lease that has been extended for one year," his wife said. "We will be signing it this weekend. Oh my gosh, we are so pleased."
It turns out the first buyer, who had plans for the building and wasn't going to renew Ardent Manor's lease, was unable to close on the deal. The second buyer, the new owner, was more than happy to renew the lease — and not raise the rent.
"The new buyer took a tour in the beginning of December and was interested in our services," Dan Waite said.
Clients' families, who care for their loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer's at home and relied on the center for a break and the program services there, were lost at the notion that the center would close. Many had tried assisted-living facilities for their loved ones but were dissatisfied.
"We panicked," Michelle Junkroski said. "We had checked out other facilities in Naples and we felt this is the best. The staff knows your name when you walk in."
Her father, Raymond Largura, 84, was diagnosed two years ago with dementia and Parkinson's disease. He goes to Ardent Manor three days a week.
Ardent Manor Day Center is at 2900 U.S. 41 N., Naples. Call (239) 435-9526 or go to www.ardentmanor.com
"He gets up and says, 'Am I going to work?' Gladys Largura, his wife, said to describe how her husband loves the center. "He would come every day if he could."
Ardent Manor averages 14 to 16 clients a day, where half days or full-day services are available with meals and snacks. At present there are five employees, which includes an on-site nurse and an activities coordinator who provide hands-on care through games, arts, low-impact exercises and other activities. The center is licensed for 32 clients.
"We do a lot of trivia games. We keep them thinking," said Judy Mogle, the activities coordinator, who was sitting Friday with Tom Earing, 86, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's five years ago.
A child's puzzle of the United States was on the table for them to start after he finished breakfast.
Simple exercises are done sitting in upright chairs, by stretching, doing leg lifts and rotating ankles and wrists in circles to help keep the clients from stiffening up.
"A lot of them won't get exercise at home," Mogle said, adding that the physical movement and socialization helps slow the disease's progression. There's a lot of humor during the day.
"They call it Judy's boot camp," Mogle said. "They say we run a tight ship around here."
Ardent Manor develops a care program for each client upon enrollment and the ratio is one staff person for every four clients; that's compared to the state requirement of one staff person for every six clients, Dan Waite said.
Ardent Manor prompts clients to take part in exercise time or in arts and crafts to make toys or teddy bears, which are furnished to the Children's Advocacy Center for abused children. That's important for their well-being, Waite said.
"It gives them a sense of purpose again," he said. "Our goal is to challenge them but not frustrate them."
Peg Earing's husband, Tom, has been coming to Ardent Manor since shortly after it opened in 2009. At the time, his illness had progressed to the point where he had stopped speaking. Now he's back to talking and interacting at the center.
"The program at Ardent Manor keeps getting better and better," his wife said. "The social interaction, the music, singing, everything engages him. I was in shock when I thought they were going to shut down."
Grace Yonan, who brings her husband, Norman, 92, to the center, cried back in November when she was told the center faced closing or a difficult move because of licensing rules.
Deep down, though, she sensed everything would be all right.
"I kind of knew in my heart it was going to be OK," she said. "People need a place like this. It touches your heart."