Home Senior Living Giving Elders ‘Hope for Aging’

Giving Elders ‘Hope for Aging’

A.G. Rhodes

Started in 1904, A.G. Rhodes now serves more than 1,100 residents each year at its three nursing home communities.

By Lindsay Field Penticuff

At A.G. Rhodes, where they serve elders between ages 61 (the youngest) all the way up to 108 (the oldest), they are dedicated to helping make a positive difference in the lives of the area’s senior population.

“We want to be that avatar, the one who is setting the pace and standard for nursing home care,” says A.G. Rhodes CEO Deke Cateau.

As one of Georgia’s first nursing homes and now one of metro Atlanta’s oldest nonprofit organizations, A.G. Rhodes serves more than 1,100 residents each year at its three locations in Fulton, Cobb, and DeKalb counties.

And operating a nonprofit nursing home model is quite unique. “It’s a for-profit and chain-dominated business,” says Cateau, who has been with A.G. Rhodes for 15 years, “but what sets us apart even from the few other nonprofit nursing homes in Georgia is the clientele we serve.”

“All of our homes are dually certified — Medicaid and Medicare — and if you come into one of A.G. Rhodes’ homes, you would not be able to tell who is paying privately or who is receiving Medicaid. We believe in providing the exact same standard of services,” says Cateau.

July 17 marks the 120th anniversary of the nursing home community first opening its doors in Grant Park, serving some of the area’s most vulnerable people, many of whom were uninsured, underinsured, and underserved. Cobb’s location in Marietta opened in 1992 and the Wesley Woods location opened near Emory University Hospital in 1997.

Expanding A.G. Rhodes Cobb
In early 2020 — just before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic — A.G. Rhodes launched a fundraising campaign to help expand and upgrade their Cobb location. “When the pandemic hit, we made the decision to suspend the campaign,” Cateau says. “Most of the nonprofit community in Atlanta started to turn their focuses on where they could make the biggest impact during the pandemic, with homelessness [and] hunger issues we have in the state.”

Household kitchen
Household kitchen

In 2021, A.G. Rhodes relaunched the Legacy of Care Campaign, eventually raising $37.5 million for the project through a combination of public and private funding, along with internal funding, to help underwrite a new skilled nursing and memory care community, as well as transform double-occupancy rooms into single-resident rooms and upgrade the existing community.

Throughout the pandemic, Cateau says they realized even more so the importance and need for elders in their nursing home communities to live in single-occupancy rooms. “[The pandemic] highlighted the physical limitations of nursing homes in the traditional nursing home model, and that was the reason COVID-19 spread like wildfire, because of congregate living and the shared spaces,” he adds.

But even before the pandemic started, Cateau says residents and families were requesting private rooms. And so many are excited to now have their own spaces for sleeping, resting, and spending time with families and friends when they come to visit.

“They’ve been watching the process all along,” says Jovonne Harvey, Administrator at A.G. Rhodes Cobb. “From the first tree being knocked down to the beautiful building going up, there’s so much anticipation about that and moving forward.”

The new setup also has allowed A.G. Rhodes to create small neighborhoods among residents, in which 12 elders live in a household. “With this new setup, even if there was an outbreak, they’d still have that family — those 12 in their household — who they’d be able to congregate with,” Harvey says.

“One of the most important things about this Cobb project is that it was designed to be a replicable model that other nursing homes can take and use, and that’s always been our mission,” Cateau adds. “At the end of the day, we think it’s going to make a difference for the elder population, and not just locally or regionally, but across the nation.”

Benefits of expanding
The expansion at Cobb was completed in May, a nearly two-year construction period. A.G. Rhodes will continue to serve up to 130 residents in this nursing home, with every room now being private.

Renovated outdoor courtyard
Renovated outdoor courtyard

“With this expansion, we will be able to fully utilize our certificate of need and do so in a much more dignified, humane way in offering private rooms to everyone,” Cateau says. “In the existing building, we’ll convert all of those shared occupancy rooms into private rooms. That will leave 58 private rooms in the existing building and the additional 72 [in the new building], which are designed for people living with dementia.”

Harvey adds that the transition plan after the move, which they are calling Cobb 2.0 Live, will allow the team at least six weeks to make the transition, with gaps in between so they can learn from any issues throughout the move. “Our first set of elders will move into the first floor, and we’ll allow that group and those families to share what part of the process was great and what we could work on getting better,” she says. “This is new to all of us, and we want to make it as smooth as possible for our elders and their families.”

The expansion also will allow A.G. Rhodes Cobb to continue to offer its person-directed model of care, in which they personalize programming and opportunities to accommodate the needs and wants of their residents. “It’s not been a simple task — it’s a journey,” Cateau says, “but with that, we’ve found three or four programs that have been tremendously successful, including our Horticultural Therapy Program and Music Therapy Program, and we have programs through uses of technology that we are able to do a lot.”

Honoring their legacy
Earlier this year, A.G. Rhodes was honored by the Georgia Senate with a resolution commemorating the organization’s 120th anniversary.

A.G. Rhodes was honored by the Georgia Senate with a resolution commemorating the organization’s 120th anniversary

“We represent a legacy of care that is huge and telling in Georgia,” Cateau says, “and I think the honor we received through that resolution represents that what we are doing is making a huge difference, and it’s being felt by thousands of families each year across Georgia. That’s the legacy of why we are still here and proudly doing that.”

Harvey, who has been with A.G. Rhodes for 12 years, agrees. “It’s an honor to work here. There’s something special about A.G. Rhodes … there’s something special about what we provide and what we deliver every day. Sometimes you shy away from aging, but we are able to give our elders hope for aging, and it’s something positive, something optimistic, and something to look forward to.”

“I feel an abundance of pride being a part of it, and I know that all of our employee care partners feel that same pride,” adds Sonya Williams, Director of Culture and Life Enrichment at A.G. Rhodes, who joined the nonprofit nine years ago. “I feel like the people who have the boots on the ground, whether you’ve been here one day or 20 years, we come here, we show up and we do our best. And it shows, because we have elders who are very happy to be here and excited every day about what’s going on. …It’s like magic, and to be a part of it is just an extreme pride.”

About A.G. Rhodes
Online: agrhodes.org
Phone: 877.918.6413
A.G. Rhodes Atlanta
350 Blvd. SE
Atlanta, GA 30312

A.G. Rhodes Cobb
900 Wylie Road SE
Marietta, GA 30067

A.G. Rhodes Wesley Woods
1819 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30329

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