New form of senior care coming to Indian River Estates puts residents in charge

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — This time next year, construction is expected to be complete on the $28 million addition to Indian River Estates, a senior care community off State Road 60 west of Vero Beach.

But already there is a buzz around the community about the project, what it will mean to residents and an excitement to see it all come together. ACTS, the agency that runs Indian River Estates, is replacing its existing Skilled Nursing center with a new, larger building that is resident-focused.

“Usually, it’s a hospital model,” Executive Director Thomas Sutton said of skilled nursing facilities, with long hallways of resident rooms, each unit contained.

Instead, ACTS is breaking with much of the tradition and creating what it calls “households” where residents have their own bedroom and bathroom but share common areas, including a kitchen, dining area and living room.

“This is definitely cutting edge,” said Charles Coxson, vice president of ACTS-Florida Region.

Fourteen-year Indian River Estates resident Cynthia Kinsella was behind the Vero Beach ACTS community receiving the trial facility, working on the top brass for 10 years to bring it to fruition.

As a retired director of nursing at two hospitals, Kinsella has seen the difference socializing can make in residents who are in need of more intense care, such as skilled nursing.

“It’s a whole new dimension for residents,” she said, explaining that she had gotten involved in Indian River Estates’ Friendly Visitors program, where residents visit with those who have outlived their family and friends. “It was magic.”

She expects the same would be true with the new, resident-focused skilled nursing center that allows residents more opportunities to interact with each other.

“Gone are the traditional schedules,” Coxson said of the new facility.

Instead of staff driving when residents rise, dine and so on, residents will be able to forge their own, individual schedule. The kitchen will provide them with meals throughout the day, not at set times.

Staff is already undergoing training to adjust to the new way of resident care.

Staff and residents will be “pretty much functioning as a family,” Coxson said.

Kinsella and other residents have become so enthusiastic about the project that they have pledged more than $4 million of their own funds to pay for upgrades and improvements not in ACTS’ budget.

The agency had to trim $3 to $4 million of extras from the budget due to the economy, which meant not having flat-screen televisions, lush landscaping, fountains and other such amenities.

Duncan Donald, a 6-year resident, is part of the voluntary fund-raising committee responsible for generating $4,124,258 to date.

“I’m really excited about it,” Donald said of the facility, which will allow for 40 more suites than the current skilled nursing center.

The existing center will later be converted for more assisted living beds, adding 20 to the current 100.

Sean Fletcher, the project manager for the new center, said that construction is progressing on schedule.

“We’ve had great weather,” he said, noting that crews had to stop work for just two days due to heavy rains since the work began in July.

“We are very, very happy with Proctor Construction,” Fletcher said. The local construction firm has hired mostly local subcontractors.

The new facility will be 100,000 square feet across two floors. By comparison, the existing center is 40,000 square feet.

The construction plans call for the structure to exceed local building codes in terms of impact resistance and the like.

Fletcher said there will be a generator on-site that would be able to supply 80 percent of the facility’s electrical needs in the event of a power outage. The 20 percent not covered would not be noticed by the residents, he added.

For more information about the expansion call (772) 562-8700 or visit

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