When it comes to memory care, less might be more.
Providers are seeing success by building small-scale, home-like communities, and for one provider in Texas, it is paying off in the form of a high return on investment (ROI).
Uncommon Care is an Austin, Texas-based company dedicated to building residential-style memory care communities for 24 residents. For John Trevey, president and CEO of Uncommon Care, larger facilities are out of the question.
“It’s very difficult to make a 48-bed facility look home-like, feel residential,” Trevey told Senior Housing News. “The only thing you get with a 48-bed model is construction savings,” he added.
As a rule, Uncommon Care opts to purchase two adjacent lots, build one 24-bed facility on the first lot, and fill it up. Then, when all 24 beds are filled, Uncommon Care builds another 24-bed facility on the second lot. This is the model the company plans to use for its future facility in Plano, Texas.
Uncommon Care currently operates four communities total.
The most recently completed Uncommon Care community is Bader House, located in San Antonio, Texas. Uncommon Care worked with Austin, Texas-based interior design firm studioSIX5 to incorporate a design that balances a home-like setting with memory care-specific features.
For instance, the kitchen at Bader House was designed with an element that studioSIX5 and Uncommon Care had never tried in other communities. A custom-designed window provides visibility between the dining area and kitchen, and is meant to serve as a place where residents can gather and watch the dining team prepare meals.
Additionally, the flooring design in Bader House is intended to define areas within the community without creating any visual disruptions. Doors to staff areas where caregivers store supplies or prepare medication were painted to match the adjacent walls so that residents would not recognize them as entries.
Kim Trevey, the COO of Uncommon Care, also decorated the walls of Bader House with local, recognizable imagery that residents could positively relate to every day.
The approach has appealed to potential residents. Uncommon Care has seen a 31% return on investment for Bader House and remains on target to fill two beds there every month.
“We’re going to compete on service more than we’re going to compete on price,” John Trevey explained, adding that Uncommon Care doesn’t market its facilities the way other providers do.
Uncommon Care’s marketing isn’t so much about selling the community as appealing to those who know what they need.
Trevey told SHN he trusts the features in Bader House will appeal to people who understand the needs of an Alzheimer’s resident. When people are educated about Alzheimer’s, he said, Uncommon Care and Bader House will seem like a great fit.
A Growing Movement?
Uncommon Care is not the only memory care provider dedicated to creating residential-style living arrangements. SeniorCare Homes, based in Kansas, operates a portfolio of licensed “home plus” facilities, or existing homes that have been converted into memory care facilities that care for 12 or fewer individuals.
“There’s something to the building materials and the old structure that gives comfort to the resident,” Jerry Pullins Jr., president and owner of SeniorCare Homes, told SHN in July.
“They believe that it’s their house because it really does have a front driveway, kitchen, living room, garden, patio and a yard,” Pullins added.
Residential, home-like atmospheres aren’t limited to memory care settings, either.
Leading the way for small-house senior care is the Green House Project, a concept that involves updating traditional nursing care by grouping skilled nursing residents into smaller dwellings of 10 to 12 individuals within cottage-like residences, each with assigned staff that specifically cares for the residents within that particular Green House.
Providers who have adopted the Green House concept have seen notable results in decreasing short-term rehabilitation length of stays. For reasons like this, senior housing may continue to travel down this path.
Allison Coon, a design coordinator at studioSIX5 who was the lead designer for Uncommon Care’s Bader House, told Senior Housing News she believes more and more memory care facilities will be built to feel residential and home-like.
Memory care is going in a “less institutional, health-care direction,” she said.
Written by Mary Kate Nelson