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Three years ago, Haciendas at Grace Village was just an idea.
“We began to study the Las Cruces area and were astounded by the need for memory care, so we went to work,” said Grace Village Director of Opperations Aubrey TeGrotenhuis. “Inspired by the need, but driven by very personal experiences with Alzheimer’s, we set about building Grace Village.”
TeGrotenhuis wanted Grace Village to feel residential and be located in a residential neighborhood – like a true home.
Haciendas at Grace Village, licensed by the New Mexico Department of Health, is an assisted living facility, specializing in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
TeGrotenhuis moved to Las Cruces specifically to make Grace Village happen.
“I am proud to have helped build Haciendas at Grace Village, because it’s exactly what I would have wanted to find for my grandmother who passed away from Alzheimer’s seven years ago,” she said. “She is the inspiration behind everything we do here. I now know that we can offer someone else the peace of mind our family had long searched for, and I am proud to be a place that she would have approved of.” The philosophy of Grace Village ensures residents are not treated like Alzheimer’s patients, but as fellow humans, who are valuable and capable of living full lives.
“A person with Alzheimer’s disease is still human,” TeGrotenhuis said. “They still have needs, wants, desires, emotions – but their capability to express these things has been stolen from them. We have the honor to calm them when anxious, clap our hands with them in joy, give them a place that they are secure, love and comfortable – and the honor of holding their hand as they pass from this life. Our philosophy is a living, breathing thing. It is our heart. There is nothing in our day-to-day operations that isn’t held to these standards.”
TeGrotenhuis is a certified instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute’s Dementia Care Specialties Program. Every member of her staff has received this special training and are certified Dementia Care Specialties Care Partners. Lisa Rodriguez, case manager, and Michelle Lewis, LPN, nurse manager, are both Certified Dementia Practitioners, with a combined 29 years of experience in the geriatric nursing, restorative nursing and Alzheimer’s care fields.
Grace Village staffs 15 employees and its residents are roughly 50 percent assisted living and 50 percent Alzheimer’s/dementia care.
TeGrotenhuis acknowledged the daily challenges in working with people who have Alzheimer’s and dementia, but said her greatest struggle is helping others understand the effects of the disease on their loved ones.
“Alzheimer’s is, I believe, often a harder diagnosis to process, deal with and share because it does not just attack someone’s physical body,” she said. “Alzheimer’s can take away the essence of the person you love, morphing them into a different personality, and erasing you, someone who loves them deeply, from their mind and heart entirely. It is painful to watch, a challenging journey to walk, but we let the family and loved ones know that we are here to walk it with them.
“To see someone move in scared, anxious, even angry, and then see them calm down, take ownership of their new home and love their caregivers and their family again … I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love to see our residents smiling at one another, laughing, and hugging their caregivers. I know their hearts feel loved and they feel safe – because they are. We also get to see the relief written all over the faces of their loved ones, knowing their loved one is safe, loved and with people who will care for their every need with an attentiveness and dedication as though they were a part of our own biological family. We have an opportunity to give a gift and be a blessing, and it is a calling that we take very seriously.”
TeGrotenhuis emphasized Grace Village is not a facility.
“Haciendas at Grace Village offers a home where a loved one will be surrounded by care, treated with dignity and respect by highly trained and passionate caregivers and a comprehensively and specially designed community,” she said. “We are dedicated to continuing to learn and strive to give the best care, no matter what it takes. We say ‘Discover the Difference’ not to be catchy or cliché, but because we have fought from the beginning to be different, purposefully choosing everything from our location to our flooring, stovetops to individual caregivers, in order to be different.”