The Larson House Memory Care and Assisted Living center recently unveiled two new additions to its facility in Columbus.

On Nov. 1, the Larson House, 550 River Road, opened a 14-suite memory care wing and a 14-suite assisted living community. Platinum Communities, owners of the Larson House, held a grand opening and tours Oct. 26 to celebrate with employees and the community. About 200 people attended.

Matt Teresinski, financial analyst for Platinum Communities, said the new additions cost about $3 million. Platinum Communities, based out of Brookfield, owns six assisted living centers in the state, primarily in southeastern Wisconsin. Tina Jones, Larson House administrator, said with people living longer and cases of memory loss more prevalent, the expansion was needed to facilitate more residents.

“With more research and the more people are being diagnosed with early, onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, it’s very difficult to be a loved one and a caregiver at the same time,” Jones said. “We want to see them continue in that role of being loved ones.”

The Larson House has served the Columbus area for 20 years and there is growing demand for its services.

“We have people calling on a daily basis, looking for placement of their loved ones, their parents and sometimes it’s even brothers and sisters calling about their siblings,” said House Manager Missy Bloomhuff. “We’ve had a demand for housing and we’ve been full (in the past).”

The original facility was built in 1996 by former owner Susan Larson Hewitt. Hewitt died in 2014. The Larson House currently has 38 employees and management said they’re excited about the new wings.

“I’m really excited about our staff training, I’m really excited about the program activities we have in place, the spas we have in the new wings with the heated floors … the patios,” Jones said. “It’s state of the art, it’s beautiful and on top of that, it’s a home-like setting. It doesn’t feel like an institution at all, but at the same time, we offer a lot of personalized care.”

The memory care wing also features several amenities designed for people with memory loss diseases. For instance, the hallway wraps around the facility in an oval so residents can walk the full length of the building without distraction. Teresinski said even a slight distraction can leave a person with memory loss disoriented.

The facility also has several pieces of artwork on the walls, including tactile structures. When residents place their hands over the raised art, it often gives them a calming feeling, Teresinski said.

In addition, residents in the memory care wing have a special furry friend to keep them company. Platinum Communities purchased PARO, a therapeutic robot that provides social and psychological effects through physical interaction. The little white robot, which resembles a baby sea lion, has been known to calm residents dealing with dementia.

PARO was designed by Dr. Takanori Shibata and has been used in Japan and Europe since 2003. PARO responds to touch, light, sound, temperature and even posture. Platinum Communities is believed to be one of the only assisted living facilities in the state that use the comforting robot.

Employees are anticipating the new wings will fill up soon with some residents already moving in this week.

“We can’t wait to fill this place up with smiles and laughter and all the stories,” Bloomhuff said. “Every home has its memories and we’re really looking forward to making new memories here.”

For more information about the Larson House, call 623-5253 and for more on Platinum Communities, go to platinum-communities.com.