Friends of Kirkwood: Founders Place

By Sarah Sexton | Publish Date March 23, 2023

Founders Place, a ministry of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, is an organization that seeks to end the isolation of dementia with an enlivening, joyful respite program (2 half days per week), a weekly caregiver support group, and community education events.

Last week, Kirkwood representatives joined in conversation with local caregivers at a Lunch and Learn presented by Founders Place and Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama entitled “Compassionate Communication.” During this event, we were led in exercises by Dr. Renee Brown Harmon on how to best connect with someone living with dementia. Dr. Harmon is the author of Surfing the Waves of Alzheimer’s: Principles of Caregiving That Kept Me Upright. She and her husband Harvey, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the young age of 49, created, developed, and shared, a thriving family medicine private practice, Double Oak Family Medicine, before his diagnosis. Dr. Harmon became a solo physician in 2010, retired in 2019, and now focuses on writing and sharing her family’s story.

Through word games, scenario exercises, and Q&A within our small groups, we were asked to explore more deeply our practices of communicating with those living with dementia, and most importantly, we were asked to walk as best we could in their shoes. We are grateful for the vulnerability and expertise shared by Dr. Harmon, as well as Susanna Whitsett and the teams at Founders Place, ACA, and Mountain Brook Baptist Church for organizing the event.

For more information on Founders Place and the resources they offer families and caregivers, visit saint-lukes.com/ministries/founders-place.


The Residents

Our residents come from different backgrounds and bring their unique qualities, talents, and life experiences to complete the Kirkwood community. Here are just a few reflections from some individuals who call Kirkwood their home.

I fell in love with the cottage and the view from my back porch. I am excited to have a yard for Ginger, my poodle, to play in and my own garage, all within an established retirement community!

Charlotte Hamilton Current Resident

My husband and I looked at a number of places when deciding to move to a retirement community. For the most part, we found communities that said, ‘We’re going to take care of you.’ But Kirkwood was different. It wasn’t just about taking care of us. It was also about having fun, having friends, and living life to the fullest. The attitude at Kirkwood was positive and the atmosphere was comforting. We simply couldn’t resist. Without a doubt, the location was ideal. The Cahaba Room that overlooks the river, the mountains, the trails – there were just so many things about life. The community was lively. It was alive.

Alice Brooks Current Resident

We realized we were approaching an age where we might need more assistance than what just downsizing could provide. Knowing we have my sons nearby and the levels of care should we need it is comforting, and the beautiful hillside, river, and the woods makes it that much more appealing. We don’t know of any other community that has the woods, the various levels of care, and so many different amenities.

Phyllis and John Guschke Current Residents

We were moving my parents down from the Cleveland area to be near us. I looked at almost every retirement place in the Birmingham area. The second I turned into Kirkwood’s drive and drove up the hill, I knew that I’d found the perfect place for my parents to live in Alabama. In the six years that my parents have been at Kirkwood, I have always felt nothing but love and helpfulness from every staff member. Everyone is always helpful with a pleasant attitude. You can truly see and feel the family atmosphere. I’m happy that my parents can call Kirkwood their home.

Brenda Sheehan Kirkwood family member

When we learned that Cedar Ridge was being developed, that seemed to fit our needs very well. It is the ideal place for the next phase of our retirement.

Carol and Arthur Stephens Current Residents

One thing that we feel is very important here at Kirkwood by the River is the relationship that we have between the staff and the residents. They are dedicated to making our life here as safe and secure and pleasurable as possible. That goes a long way.

Fred Rogers Current Resident

The community's cottage living surrounded by a wooded, natural environment with access to future healthcare services is what attracted us to Kirkwood!

Rick and Jane Ricketts Current Residents