Couple creates a home for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia

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Portrait of Barry and Billie Jo Melchior, owners of BeeHive on Stillwater Road in Kalispell are preparing to open a second facility. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Barry and Billie Jo Melchior, owners of BeeHive Kalispell memory-care facility, take every opportunity to offer a warm greeting to each resident.

Though those living in a BeeHive home are suffering with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, Barry said they still have a desire for connection.

“They need to be recognized, they need to have a purpose for their day,” he said. “They still have the same needs they’ve always had.”

This summer the Melchiors are starting construction on another BeeHive at their property on Stillwater Drive, hoping to open by early 2020. The current home has 19 rooms, and the new building will add another 20.

“There’s a real need,” Barry said about opening another facility. “I feel like we give the best care to residents with dementia and I’m not shy about saying that.”

BeeHive Homes started in Utah as a chain of small memory-care residences, with the average facility housing 16 residents. BeeHive franchises, now located in 20 states, are known for intimate environments, with home-cooked meals and staffs who prioritize getting to know each senior resident and their families.

The second Kalispell BeeHive will provide another home for seniors featuring the same large rooms and walkable indoor areas as the first, plus an expanded secure outdoor courtyard linking the homes.

Barry said operating a site as a married couple is common among BeeHive owners. He became familiar with the BeeHive brand when he started working as a manager for Josh and Jessi Burlage, former owners of the Columbia Falls BeeHive homes, in 2011. The North Dakota native had moved to the Flathead Valley in 2009. Before that he had launched his career in senior-living administration in 1993, working in finance capacities for assisted-living properties in California.

Billie Jo was born and raised in Browning, and earned her degree in nursing from Montana State University-Northern in Havre. Her first nursing job was in Dillon, and she left for Kalispell to work at Immanuel Lutheran Communities. She was a registered nurse with Immanuel Lutheran for more than two decades, and currently substitutes in that role a few days each month.

“I’ve always wanted to work with seniors,” she said. “It’s a rewarding experience to give them love and attention, to see their smiles when you give them a big hug.”

Every day is a new experience with memory-care patients, Billie Joe said.

“You have to be where they’re at, you can’t make them fit into your world,” Billie Jo said. “You have to figure out where they’re at and what they’re needing. They might be hungry or they might be in pain and they can’t always tell you. You have to figure it out like a puzzle that changes day to day.”

Teaching staff members the methods for unlocking those puzzles is the key, Barry said.

“You have to train the staff how to work with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s more involved, you have to learn redirection techniques for residents with memory issues.”

Knowing each resident’s history and their families can also make a difference, Billie Jo said.

“Sometimes you can use a family member’s name to get them to perk up and get interested,” she said.

Barry said small daily highlights boost the quality of life for the BeeHive residents.

“We try to create successful activities so they’re successful at whatever they do,” he said. “We want to create good memories, still. You never know when they’re going to remember something and we don’t know this disease well enough. We don’t know how the brain is going to react, and we want to create enjoyable moments for them.”

In good weather, the Melchiors pack everyone up for field trips to places like Bibler Gardens, Woodland Park or a pumpkin patch.

“We’re willing to push the boundaries to have a good time,” Barry said.

The Melchiors credit their manager, Dawnelle Kvasnicka, for her commitment to the BeeHive Home. Her presence lets them feel at ease about getting away for vacations such as their upcoming Alaskan cruise. The Melchiors also make time for themselves through camping, fishing and taking care of their family of dogs and cats.

They are also grateful for the community of volunteers and other local professionals who work with seniors for their contributions to BeeHive Kalispell. Collaboration is more important than competition in providing the best for Flathead Valley seniors, Barry said.

The Melchiors themselves will do whatever is needed to create the best situation possible for their residents. While Billie Jo uses her nursing skills to focus on health-care needs, Barry takes care of everything from administrative duties to weekly grocery shopping.

“We’re all caregivers,” Barry said. “If you’re in this business it doesn’t matter if you’re an owner or a manger or an administrator. There’s always an opportunity. You can always just go and be with someone.”

Reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4438 or hgaiser@dailyinterlake.com.

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