Caring for the Elderly: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

Throughout my elementary school years, one of my family’s weekly activities was to go visit my maternal grandfather, Will Starkey, at Richardson’s Rest Home. He had a stroke in 1966 which

left him unable to care for himself so he became a resident there. My paternal great-grandmother, Minda Holloway Burnett, was also a resident there so we would stop in to see her as well.

My paternal grandmother, Viola Burnett, and her best friend, Marvell Nixon, worked at Richardson’s during this time so they often introduced us to other elderly people who lived there. I was taught from an early age to show care and respect for the elderly patients we encountered on those visits.

R.J. Richardson and his wife kept elderly people in his home in west Conway before they bought a two-story house on Center Street in 1952. Mrs. Richardson called them “boarders.” The 13-room two-story house would eventually be torn down and a one-story facility with 25 beds was built in its place. This is the rest home where my grandfather and great-grandmother resided in the late 1960s.

In 1972, citing health reasons, Mrs. Richardson sold the rest home to Mr. and Mrs. E.D. Houston. They changed the name to Houston Nursing Home and added twenty-eight more beds. In 1977, Kaye Henderson bought the facility and changed the name to The Heritage Center. She added more rooms in 1981 but in 1992 decided to build the facility on Morningside Drive that is now Heritage Living Center.

Two other nursing homes were established in the Conway area in the 1960s. Johnson’s Meadowlake Home was established in 1961 on Meadowlake Road. This one-story facility was situated on 30 acres and even included a fishing lake. Johnson built a new facility, St. Andrews Place, at the corner of Reedy and College in the 1990s and the Meadowlake facility closed. The old nursing home stood vacant until it was demolished to make way for The Ridge Apartments in the late 1990s.

Conway Convalescent Center was built in 1968 on Salem Road. The building stood on a four-and-a-half acre lot north of Westport Dental. The facility accommodated 100 patients when it opened but additions were made later. The name was later changed to Salem Place. In recent years, the nursing home moved to a new building off Nutter’s Chapel Road. The old nursing home building was replaced with an office building.

Today there are several facilities around Conway to take care of elderly patients who can no longer take care of themselves and require assistance. For those who make frequent visits to see loved ones in nursing homes, one of the most painful things to see is the loneliness of other residents who hardly ever get visitors. Many light up if you give them just a smile or a few kind words.

They just want someone to pay attention.

In 1999, Raydean Wood, decided to do something about that. While visiting her mother in a local nursing home, she noticed that many of the residents there never had any visitors and never received any gifts during the holidays. Seeing this led her to establish the Nursing Home Gift Fund of Faulkner County, which became a 501(c)(3) three years later. Many of the non-profit’s members are Faulkner County employees.

The nonprofit has a hamburger cook-out every spring to raise funds. It is held during lunch on the front lawn of the Faulkner County Courthouse. This year’s cook-out is this Thursday, May 5 from11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pre-orders are taken for groups of 20 or more. You may purchase $5 tickets to come and eat there. Baked goods will also be sold.

Donations are also accepted throughout the year. The gift bags are assembled and delivered during the second week in December. Every resident gets a gift bag with basic toiletries items, clothing items, a lap throw and a calendar.

Caring for the elderly is part of what makes Conway a great place to live. It is important that we care for and cherish those people who worked hard to make Conway and Faulkner County what it is today.

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