• Jordan D. Smith

Country Living Senior Care Sees a Changing of the Guard


For more than 20 years, Country Living Senior Care on Emery Road has been a fixture of the Portland community. It was founded by local nurse Kelly Grys in a time when the Portland community had few senior care options. Grys who worked as an RN for many years at Ingham Regional Medical Center (now McLaren) took the leap to become a small business owner in response to a personal need. “I had a grandmother at the time,” says Grys, “who had strokes and it was my mission to not have her have to go to a nursing home,” so she started her own assisted living center to, “take care of everyone’s grandma.”


Country Living is unique in that Grys’ home was attached to the center so she was essentially on 24/7. That sense of duty extended to the whole family including her four daughters who grew up helping care for the residents. Two of Grys’ daughters have subsequently made healthcare a career. Not long ago, however, Grys’ husband was diagnosed with cancer. Though he is currently in remission, she decided to retire in order to make the most of the time they have together. “It was a wonderful, wonderful job,” says Grys, “and I don’t regret a minute of it. I loved my job and miss them all terribly. I don’t miss the business side but I miss the families and residents and staff.”


This retirement has led to a handing off of the baton of sorts, to a new generation of caregivers.


New owners, Courtney Dixon and Keristin Hetherington met as college classmates attending Montcalm Community College. After graduating from St. Patrick Catholic School in Portland, Dixon studied at Davenport University before receiving her RN degree at MCC. Hetherington graduated from Central Montcalm High School before attending MCC. Between the two of them, Dixon and Hetherington have a wealth of nursing experience in hospital, long-term care, home care, and assisted living settings, among others.


These friends who became business partners had often talked about starting an assisted living facility but not quite so soon. They thought the opportunity would be years down the road. To get an idea of how to begin, they reached out to Grys for advice knowing that she had done what they dreamed to do. “One thing led to another and after a long 13-month process, we had finally closed the sale,” Dixon said, “We couldn’t be happier, more excited, and truly blessed to have done what we thought was going to be impossible.”


Both Hetherington and Dixon say that getting to know the residents that they care for is the highlight of their new jobs. One of the best, “...parts about working with the geriatric population is listening to the stories and memories they tell,” Hetherington says. “Our residents are near and dear to our hearts as we get to know them and treat them as if they’re our family,” says Dixon.


Dixon says that one thing that sets Country Living apart is having not one but two RNs available around the clock not only to provide care but in the all-important role of case managers for residents who often have multiple medical concerns to manage and doctors to coordinate. “We take pride in the care we provide,” she says. That’s a plus that former owner Kelly Grys agreed with. Most assisted living centers do not have nearly as much medical expertise on staff.


In the future, Country Living has plans to expand adding a dedicated 8-10 bed memory care facility. The new owners have already started to make their mark on the home with some indoor renovations which will eventually also include building a garden “sanctuary” for residents and visiting family to spend time outdoors. To learn more about Country Living Senior Care you can contact Dixon at (517) 719-9334 and Heatherington at (616) 894-5745


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