The Commons to add wing for seniors with dementia

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—From the window above, Cathy Story, director of The Commons, points out the secured outdoor recreation area that is currently under construction for clients who will be residing the Alzheimer’s unit being built in the complex.

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Cathy Story, director of The Commons, points out the amenities in one of the finished studio apartments in the secured Alzheimer’s wing currently under construction at the assisted living center.

The Commons of Hilltop at 625 27 1/2 Road is scheduled to open a new wing for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in January.

The wing, on the retirement community’s first floor, will have 11 apartments. The area will look like other parts of the building with one key difference: It will be locked. That’s to prevent patients who get confused from wandering out of the building and getting lost, according to Cathy Story, director of The Commons.

Story said only people at risk of running away will be placed in the unit. Another, unlocked wing in the building is equipped to handle people with mild to moderate dementia.

A name for the wing remains to be determined. The area will feature a TV and music room, a dining and activity room, and a quiet room with an aquarium. Story said having a smaller surface area to cover can help decrease the chances of people with dementia becoming lost, and including a secured unit in the same facility that some of the people may already have been living in helps ease the transition.

“When you’re 85, living in a new place with new staff, especially when you have dementia, is difficult,” Story said. “For us, it’s a good business decision, but for our residents it’s an even better decision.”

Story said she received several calls from family members interested in the new wing. She estimates there are fewer than 100 beds in locked units for people with dementia in Mesa County, and there are about 2,500 or more seniors in Mesa County who have some level of dementia. She expects that number to increase as the Baby Boomer generation ages.

Most local nursing homes are open to people with some level of dementia, and at least three have locked units, according to Alzheimer’s Association Western Slope Regional Director Teresa Black. She said the 11 slots at The Commons will relieve some pressure for people seeking a place for their loved ones to stay. But finding a place usually isn’t the most pressing problem for families, she said.

“We have a lot of places in town that will take people. The problem is we need services at all price points,” Black said.

The base rent for a shared, two-bedroom apartment in the new wing at The Commons will cost $4,800 a month, and a one-bedroom or studio for a single person will cost about $5,200 a month, Story said. Care for residents will cost an additional $350 to $1,200, and medication administration will be another $100 to $450 a month.

The Commons provides assisted-living care, which means help with daily activities such as brushing teeth and getting in and out of the shower. Any skilled nursing would have to be provided by an outside source.

The final price tag is comparable to other locked units in town, Story said, and is set based on how much more it costs The Commons to provide a smaller staff-to-resident ratio in the locked unit.

Long-term-care insurance sometimes covers a portion of rent at assisted living facilities, and Medicaid will reimburse some of the cost, but only about $1,800 a month on average, according to Story. She said The Commons is considering whether to accept Medicaid for the new wing from people who do not already live at The Commons.

Story said current residents at The Commons, which has 133 rooms, have been asked about the new wing at a community forum.

“They had not one complaint. They get it,” she said.

All residents will be able to use a locked, fenced-in walking loop The Commons is building outside the facility. An unlocked door to the loop will be connected to the new wing.


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