Provider Bets Mom-and-Pop Memory Care Model Can Go Big

Imagine: A ranch-style home in an average Midwest neighborhood converted into a small community where residents receive personalized memory care for a fixed monthly price from the same caregiver every day.

Now expand that concept to encompass up to 12 homes, all in a central area, but each with a unique look and feel that provides residents with more than just a homelike environment, but a home that they can call their own.

That’s the goal of Kansas-based SeniorCare Homes, which was founded in 2007 and opened its doors in 2008, and now includes five residential homes in its portfolio of licensed “home plus” facilities — residences caring for 12 or fewer individuals who are not the operator’s family members, and licensed by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, according to Kansas statutes.

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“Residents will say to me or other visitors, ‘This house isn’t for sale. This is my house.’ They believe that it’s their house because it really does have a front driveway, kitchen, living room, garden, patio and a yard,” says Jerry Pullins Jr., president and owner of SeniorCare Homes.

At three of the homes, there is one caregiver at any given time serving five residents. At the other two homes, there are two caregivers serving about eight or so residents, providing more advanced assistance and attention.

While they don’t live in the homes, the caregivers rotate and work 12-hour shifts to minimize the number of staff at each house, providing a more intimate setting for the residents, Pullins says.

Additionally, there is a nursing clinical director, a nurse administrator, two activities directors, a director of operations and an executive director — Pullins — among other staff who travel among the homes.

And the model seems to be working: Out of 34 rooms total, there’s only one that isn’t currently occupied. Until recently, the homes had been fully occupied and have maintained over 90% occupancy for the last three years.

While there’s expansion on the horizon for SeniorCare Homes, it won’t be through developing custom-built properties. Instead, the model’s charm comes, in part, from the character of the older buildings.

“We buy existing homes — with them, you get the character of an older home and it feels like a home,” Pullins says. “There’s something to the building materials and the old structure that gives comfort to the resident. It’s hard to re-create that if you build it from scratch.”

So how exactly does the model work? Pullins gave SHN a rundown:

Concept — Still a fairly new model, SeniorCare Homes targets existing residences that will serve as the foundation for a new community.

“I am intentionally looking into traditional existing neighborhoods for ranch-style homes with neighbors. I’m looking for a home that I can either add onto or renovate, to put in hardwood floors and motion sensors, and take out all the stairs and steps,” Pullins says. “We’re paying around $250,000 for one home and putting in around $400,000 in renovations.”

Location — SeniorCare Homes operates five facilities in the Kansas City metro area, in Overland Park and Leawood, Kan. While they’re not all on the same street, Pullins looks for homes that are close enough to one another to maintain operational efficiencies.

“Proximity is key. The more proximity we can have the better, because the nursing and clinical staff are going to neighborhoods,” he says. “But they’re not clustered in a cul-de-sac; the comfort of the residents and the value of the model comes from being scattered and integrated into the neighborhoods. There’s no rhyme or reason [to their location] other than trying to get them close to each other.”

Price — Nationwide, the average cost of memory care runs residents about $4,849 a month. However, those costs can go as high as, or even higher than, $9,000 a month, depending on the location and services received.

At SeniorCare Homes, residents generally pay a fixed price of $7,000 a month.

“We have some discounted rooms that are shared rooms, which can offer more of a bargain for some families, and we have a couple deluxe rooms that are a little more expensive,” Pullins says. “We do not have point systems or tiers — just one all-encompassing price. The families love that.”

Referrals — While most providers rely on word-of-mouth or traditional marketing strategies, SeniorCare Homes gets its referrals from an unlikely source—people who have experienced a more traditional community and want something different.

“The more big facilites are built in this area, the more referrals we get,” Pullins says. “That’s where our referrals come from — families or residents in chain or big-box facilities. The more people who try the big facility, the more potential residents we have to move into our location.”

Future — SeniorCare Homes is looking to more than double its current stock of residential homes, taking a model that has traditionally been a one-off or family-owned business and making it scalable.

“We’re looking to have 12 homes in the Kansas City area. That would be our goal,” Pullins says. “This model has been stuck with mom-and-pop operators, but it’s got to be scalable so folks can grow the model for the betterment of all the residents around town.”

Written by Emily Study

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