Chelsea Place Senior Care is spreading the love around to more local seniors.

In addition to its assisted living and its senior day care, the rapidly expanding Port Charlotte organization now offers a free referral service and in-home care.

It all started, appropriately enough, with grandparents.

Shortly after local entrepreneur Kris Chana graduated from the University of Florida, a friend suggested that he and his wife, Chelsea, tour a little six-bed assisted living facility that the friend’s father had started.

Kris, who’d never really considered an industry with such a depressing reputation, was instead captivated.

“That day, I had such a great time with the residents, making them smile and laugh,” he recalled. “I think that passion was always there, because I loved hanging out with my own grandparents.”

Now the Chanas not only have dozens of adopted grandparents, they’re expanding the services they offer them.

Seven years ago, Kris, now 30, and Chelsea, 28, started Chelsea Place Assisted Living, a small local facility with 12 private rooms. In fact, they lived there themselves — with their dog, Dallas, and several seniors unrelated to them — for the first three years of their marriage.

“It was a true test of our relationship, but a great way to bring love to others,” said Kris.

“It was like having 10 grandparents,” added Chelsea.

They lived with them, ate with them, cared for them and made Chelsea Place a loving home.

“It might not be a hip or cool industry, but if you’re passionate about it, you’ll excel,” said Chelsea.

She reported that their first resident, who had severe dementia and was “lost in the shuffle” in a larger facility, regained weight and memory in the homelike environment of Chelsea Place. Her family thanked the couple for giving them back their grandmother.

“In the same way, we wanted people to come to our Chelsea Place Senior Day Care and have a blast,” said Kris. “I just love what this does for people.”

The day care, opened last year, improves not just members’ physical, cognitive, social and emotional lives, but also those of their families at home.

“Families are still living with their loved one and going through the struggles of caregiving, but we’re making that easier for them by giving them a break,” Kris said.

One member’s spouse wrote to them, “I find his time spent at Chelsea Place is more beneficial than medication my husband had taken in the past.”

Forget everything you used to think about cold, institutional assisted livings or rehabs. Chelsea Place fills seniors’ needs to continue being part of a fun, familial group.

Chelsea Chana’s cheerful Key West décor, with sky-blue walls, faux-driftwood flooring and “Surf’s Up” signs, carries through both locations. The assisted living has the ambiance of a beachside B&B; the day care is like a tropical resort’s activity center — meals, live music and all.

And now Chelsea Place is making life even easier for caregivers and their loved ones. They’ve just rolled out a fuller menu of services, with a free Senior Care Expert Hotline referral service and in-home care.

The new referral service is a natural evolution of something Chelsea Place provided all along — a “portal” consultation service that’s a first step for families who don’t know where to turn when faced with what can be a bewildering array of options.

Key to the Chelsea Place expansion is new senior resource specialist Amie Conti, who’d known the Chanas for seven years before joining Chelsea Place Senior Care.

In her 13 years in the area, she’s worked for an assisted living facility and a private-duty, in-home care agency, and is active in Our Charlotte Elder Affairs Network (OCEAN), Senior Outreach Sources (SOS) and the Alzheimer’s Association.

About the referral service, Conti said, “We aren’t an 800 number referring people out of state. We’re here, we’re local, and we want to help provide the referrals people asked for — personal care, legal affairs, financial planning, veterans’ benefits, long-term care insurance, Medicare versus Medicaid, even funeral planning.”

And now Chelsea Place comes to clients’ homes, too.

“We realized,” said Kris, “that many of our target clients for home care were already day care members.

Their families were already spending on home care or respite care services, and they could use their dollars in a more cost-effective way. Plus we can offer services 24-7, even on weekends and at night.”

Their caregivers are home health aides who provide showers, help with daily living activities, medication reminders, laundry and light housekeeping, transportation to shopping and appointments, even companionship at home, in rehab or in assisted living.

Conti added, “We can meet almost any need, tailoring in-home care to the client.”

Kris Chana admits to having ambitious goals for the next 10 years — 100 day care locations, 25 assisted living facilities and 12 home care agencies.

“It puts everything we’re doing now into perspective,” he explained. “It will be a slow process, though, because we want to continue serving people with the same attention to detail, whether in assisted living, daycare or home care.”

Clients can begin exploring Chelsea Place and other local services through their free Senior Care Expert Hotline (941-677-7233). The new Chelsea Place In-Home Care can be reached at 941-979-5288.

Chelsea Place Senior Day Care (941-883-6600), 3626 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, is open Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Chelsea Place Assisted Living (941-676-3411) is at 315 Addison Drive, Charlotte Harbor.

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