Memory care is quickly risen what some are calling the “flavor of the year,” when it comes to new senior housing construction across the nation.
While other property types have ticked up and down over the last eight years, during and following the housing crisis, memory care construction has slowly and gradually increased over time, bucking the more sporadic trends of its counterparts, according to data from the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry.
Industry members have long believed that memory care, done right, presents big opportunity in that it caters to a high acuity population that is anticipated to surge in the coming decades. All property types are now adding memory care on a national basis, according to NIC, with assisted living and memory care being the most often developed property type in the market today.
But while some concern exists among those who finance the development of new memory care properties, others who specialize in memory care today say newcomers to the market are welcome, as long as they are willing to put in the specific resources that memory care requires.
“We are seeing more combined memory care proposals than anything else,” said Red Capital Group Managing Director Adam Sherman during a SHN webinar last month. “We like this mix in that it’s a logical continuum of care within the community and it’s also a selling point for families in that it eliminates the need for moves. Needs-based care is less sensitive to economic conditions.”
But Red Capital, which specializes in the finance of senior living communities of all types, is not willing to work on just every memory care deal.
“We see there is a need at a macro level for memory care units,” Sherman said. “It’s easy to get caught in the whirlwind of macro level analysis in looking at this market. If it’s done well, it can be a home run, but it its done inadequately, it can be bad on many levels, and not just financially.”
Take it from a provider that has nearly two decades of experience in providing memory care. Silverado Senior Living, based in Irvine, Calif., has seen success in caring from those suffering memory care impairment, but also notes there is a lot to be learned—among not only new providers, but established ones.
“In certain areas there is still a lack of understanding about how you work with someone with dementia,” says Kim Butrum, Silverado vice president of health services. “There are a lot of providers getting into memory care, but we don’t see that as a negative. We have a lot of experience [spanning] 18 years of clinical outcomes showing we’ve fine tuned what we do, and we have a lot of expertise to share with those providers.”
Silverado’s years of experience has led the company, as a whole, to reach a 30-day hospital readmission rate of just 0.3%—versus the average for skilled nursing, which hovers around 15%.
“There’s a lot we have learned over the last 18 years,” Butrum says. From university affiliations to staffing, Silverado has fine tuned its approach, while continuing to learn about an evolving care type. “As people realize there is not a lot of research on best practices in dementia care in assisted living, that’s an area many might have a learning curve on. We are trying to focus on how we can be involved in the research to develop and share our expertise.”
Emeritus Senior Living, which also has roots in memory care nationwide, says its services are also evolving to meet the changes in the marketplace. Along with more demand for memory care comes more awareness and education around it, says Kelly Scott Lindstrom, VP of Program Development & Innovations for the company.
“We’ve done some things to shift and better define ourselves in the marketplace,” Lindstrom says. “That has been helpful for us as we see competition increase.”
In order to focus on the area of expertise, Emeritus has encouraged and implemented more education around dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as well as, more specifically, topics like brain health and the distress associated with caregiving. That may mean seminars in Emeritus communities for family members as well as partnerships with experts of memory care and ongoing attention to training.
“We find that families are constantly looking for more information. When a loved one is diagnosed, it’s not like you are enrolled in a class,” Lindstrom says. “We are trying to provide families with education on a broad scale.”
But providers are also finding that family members are much more informed than ever before. They are searching for memory care solutions with the benefit of technology and discussion that is driving a conversation of awareness about dementia and its challenges.
“The consumer comes with a lot more research and is a lot more informed in terms of what to look for around the types of approaches to having a resident be successful,” Lindstrom says. “That means everything from activities of daily living to activities of engagement. They come with specific questions.”
At Silverado, the company has developed best practices to help facilitate care of those who have chosen to move into a Silverado community. Not only are caregivers looking out for residents, but so are housekeeping staff and all employees. If, for example, a housekeeper notices a resident isn’t interacting as usual, or isn’t eating, he or she can communicate that to care staff.
Sometimes visitors may be surprised to see a resident in a meeting among community executives, Butrum says, but the company’s take is that Silverado will never say its residents can’t sit where they want to.
The company also monitors all subtle behavioral changes following a hospital stay that might be telling, and follows up with protocols before a readmission is required. Further, Silverado partners with social workers and others, such as home care providers and hospice care that helps create seamless transitions for memory care residents.
“There is a big learning curve for people who haven’t been in memory care,” Butrum says. “But the expertise is something that needs to be shared. There is enough market for everyone.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article included quotes attributed to another Emeritus employee that should have been attributed to Kelly Scott Lindstrom, VP of Program Development & Innovations for Emeritus. SHN regrets the error.
Written by Elizabeth Ecker