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  1. Hernando

New assisted-living home in Spring Lake offers as much home as assistance

On a summer morning, residents at Country Acres Assisted-Living Facility “sit a spell” on an airy porch as caregiver-owner Jared Snow (in the blue shirt) engages them in conversation that often leads to nostalgic storytelling. BETH N. GRAY | Special to the Times
On a summer morning, residents at Country Acres Assisted-Living Facility “sit a spell” on an airy porch as caregiver-owner Jared Snow (in the blue shirt) engages them in conversation that often leads to nostalgic storytelling. BETH N. GRAY | Special to the Times
Published Jun. 17

BROOKSVILLE — As an assisted-living facility, Country Acres more resembles a high-end rustic lodge hosting a vacation gathering of friendly aunts, uncles and grandparents.

So say the half-dozen elders who've taken up residency since the facility's January opening in rural Spring Lake.

Ashley and Jared Snow, 32 and 34 respectively, converted the nine-bedroom former foster home into a seniors' respite when her parents, Bill and Sherry Leslie, retired as caregivers there.

"I grew up in care-giving since age 7," Ashley Snow said. "I was accustomed to it. It was my family."

Her husband came to safekeeping of others from another angle. He'd served 13 years as a deputy with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

The couple's priority is providing a family-like atmosphere at the two-level lodge, which features private rooms, two common sitting areas, a game solarium and two kitchens with adjacent dining spaces. Open-air decks reach out on all sides, while a broad front porch looks out on a shaded landscape.

April Herlihy, 40, a former certified nursing assistant, is a live-in caretaker. The Snows, who live less than a mile away, are on the premises daily.

Herlihy and Ashley Snow prepare meals, family-style lunch and dinner. If someone isn't a fan of the day's homemade lasagna, an alternative is quickly readied. Residents are welcome to cook with supervision.

"We're not into taking away their independence," Ashley Snow emphasized.

"People don't stay in their rooms," she pointed out during a tour. "We have people who want to be in the common areas. They want to be where everyone else is."

Activities entice residents out of their rooms. Mostly home-based, join-in attractions suit the residents, aged 63 to 94.

Some residents tend a small vegetable garden. They helped to plant it, water it and snip its herbs for dinner.

"It's something they can handle that's not overwhelming, but gives them responsibility," Ashley said.

An associated outing has elicited enthusiastic endorsement: a minutes-long trip to nearby Beasley Farms, where they buy mixed vegetables that they'll help prepare for the week's dining.

Bingo, trivia, jigsaw puzzles and storytelling are always on tap.

"It's like being at home, on vacation," said guest-resident Susan Sharp, 63. "They give you the structure, but it's freedom to be yourself."

Liz Nelson of Melbourne came to stay in January after breaking an ankle.

"It's a very nice place to go if you need help," said the 86-year-old. She noted its handicapped accessibility, exercise opportunities and family lifestyle as she recuperates.

The Snows aim to keep the resident roster at about six to maintain "a different level of compassion and care" compared to larger facilities.

"I think we have a positive environment. We always promote forward-moving." Ashley Snow said.

Residency is monthly. Rates depend on the level of care required. Tours of Country Acres Assisted Living Facility at 4063 Baseball Pond Road in Brooksville are available by calling (352) 754-2804.

Contact the writer at graybethn@earthlink.net.

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