People with Alzheimer's disease forget a lot about their past. But the Palms of Largo is helping those who have the disease, and those who treat them, remember the good times.
At the assisted living facility on East Bay Drive, men and women with Alzheimer's live on the fourth floor of the Regal Palms building. This spring, their floor underwent a $500,000 renovation.
The work, completed in May, includes a "Main Street" look in the residents' hallways. Pastel-colored outdoor siding makes the hallways feel like exterior streets. Three-D painted "windows" simulate the windows on a home, complete with cats and houseplants.
Display boards hang outside each resident's door, filled with pictures of younger days so employees and other residents can get to know more about patients' pasts.
For some residents, the shadowboxes have an added benefit.
"There's no better reminder of where their rooms are for one thing," said Anita Wilson, 41, a licensed practical nurse at Regal Palms. "It's amazing to see all the memorabilia. It rings a bell for them and it means something for them."
Staff coordinator Phoebe Spencer said the boxes of mementos and photos give staff members clues about residents' pasts.
"It gives us something to talk about," she said. "It makes me want to ask more. I'll say, 'What's going on with the uniform here? What were you doing?' And then you see their faces light up and they talk about what they used to do and what happened at that time."
In the middle of one hallway, a mural of a beach scene flanks the lanai that allows residents to sit outside in wicker chairs and overlook Lake Avenue.
Another hall is lined with portraits of Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra and other members of the Rat Pack. Nearby, artist renderings of two musicians, including a life-size violinist whose instrument has strings which can be plucked, seem to stand guard.
Turn down another hall and you'll notice portraits of the past, including the old St. Petersburg Pier and the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks from decades ago.
Resident Connie Squire, 65, said the new sights are a pleasure.
"I like the artwork," she said. "We do a lot of walking and every day we kind of see something new. It's a nice feeling."
Resident Bobby Key, 70, agreed.
"It's been done over," he said. "It's beautiful. Everyone's been talking about it. The (shadowboxes) are beautiful."
A display board outside Squire's door shows pictures from her past. But she was more taken by a friend's display board and how much she liked looking at it. Then she remembered something else.
"I just think it's an improvement and I'm real glad they did what they did," she said. "It doesn't strike you as a hospital, and I think that's important to the patients instead of having the feeling of always being so medicinal. It really looks homey this way."
Regal Palms executive director Michael Barody is pleased with the facelift as well.
"I've watched residents give families tours," he said. "They love the animals in 3-D."
More improvements are planned at the Palms of Largo.
The 95-acre complex already features facilities that cater to different stages of life, including a preschool, senior independent apartments and a spa that is open to the public.
The complex may soon add a village marketplace nearby for residents to visit. The complex is in the early planning stages, Barody said.
He said it could include a veterans' memorial, a farmers market, a performance area and a place to buy coffee or ice cream.