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New assisted living facility focuses on Alzheimer's, dementia
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A Florida doctor aims to turn the former Garden House nursing home into assisted living for people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The Garden House, at 1358 Manchester Drive N.E. near Rockdale Medical Center, abruptly closed in May 2013 because of an unexpected foreclosure on its landlord. The shutdown displaced 50 residents and ended 25 jobs.

Dr. Prem Shah bought the building 10 months ago with the plans of opening a facility similar to one he runs in St. Petersburg, Fla., called Bristol Court. He hopes to have it in operation by January, assuming his pending state license request goes through.

"It's definitely something much-needed in the community," said Shah, who once interned at DeKalb Medical in Decatur. "The reason I decided to come to Georgia is the shocking need for this type of care."

People with dementia need a high level of full-time care. It can be hard to find facilities that provide such care, Shah said, and those that do-including the former Garden House-often house dementia patients in a limited area.

The Conyers facility would have about 75 beds and create 40 to 50 jobs, he said. He said it would be the assisted living facility of its kind in the area, and possibly the largest "within several hundred miles."

Shah's family is in the hotel development business, but he became interested in medicine instead and got into the assisted living field after seeing how much care dementia patients need.

"This is my passion," said Shah, adding he gave practicing medicine to run assisted living facilities. He also has an MBA in health care management.

He opened Bristol Court-his first and currently only other dementia home-in 2011. In its first two years of operation, that facility received several citations from state inspectors, as well as a $1,000 fine for failure to conduct criminal background checks on some employees, according to Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration records.

Some of the situations that drew citations were patients being injured but going untreated for hours, and family members not notified of injuries or hospitalizations until days afterward, the record say. Follow-up inspections found that any problems were corrected, and four inspections so far this year found no issues.

"Any business that opens up from scratch, there's going to be issues and problems...These are things we learned from," Shah told the News, adding that some of the managers involved in those situations "are no longer on board."

One of Bristol Court's current administrators would move here to operate the Conyers home, he said.

The former Garden House requires little rehab work, and would look basically the same from the outside, Shah said. He said he believes no zoning variances or approvals would be required.