New Operator Bella Groves Launches With Membership-Based Memory Care Model

This week, a new residential-style memory care community is opening its doors in Bulverde, Texas — but if the concept works as intended, its services will reach far beyond its walls.

The company is Bella Groves, and its mission is not only to support older adults living with dementia, but also to educate those who live with and care for them. The new operator is unique in that it offers three membership tiers with services ranging from at-home education, training resources and support for $20 a month to residential memory care at its community, starting at $7,500 a month.

Although one could describe Bella Groves as a memory care operator, Co-Founder and CEO James Lee said it’s more of a dementia-focused education company at heart.


“Ninety percent of our business is going to be focused on people outside of residential care,” Lee told Senior Housing News.

Membership-style services are gaining steam elsewhere in the senior living industry, and some operators say adopting these kinds of models leads to more flexible operations, with more appeal to the baby boomers.

Membership-based memory care

The hub of the company’s educational efforts is the community in Bulverde, with 32 beds split into two households with 16 beds each. While Bella Groves will function as a memory care community with all of the typical services and offerings, Lee said the company’s goal is to serve older adults and their families well before they arrive at the community.

Photo via Facebook / Bella Groves

Lee — a former executive director with Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD) and vice president of training and sales with Silverado — said that older adults living with dementia typically reside with loved ones for years as their condition progresses, and only move into senior living communities when their care needs demand the transition.

While that model has served the memory care sector well for years, he believes there are more opportunities to aid older adults living with dementia before they get to the “end of the journey.”

“Most of our industry perceives care as the most important thing we do, and I actually disagree,” Lee said. “I think care is one of the things that we do, but education is the most important thing that we do.”

The first of Bella Groves’ three membership tiers costs $20 a month and is meant for older adults and families who need guidance in their dementia journey. At that price, customers get access to Bella Groves’ in-house dementia care methodology.

The company sees three main potential customers for its educational services: families in need of help; local businesses in need of guidance; and eventually down the road, other small privately owned senior care companies.

Bella Groves also plans to curate and organize dementia-related information and offer it as a resource, free of charge, with an ambitious goal of turning the surrounding San Antonio area into “the largest dementia safe haven in the world,” Lee added.

At the second membership package, customers will pay $1,500 per month to receive personalized tools, care coordination, and services. The tier includes nursing care assessment, dementia care coaching and medication management services along with access to a mobile app and one day of respite care at the community each month. The service is built so that it can be complementary to home-based care.

“Our nurse would go do an assessment, and they would give you a care plan that you and whoever you hire can follow,” Lee said. “We’re going to have lots of data, lots of insights and lots of care recommendations.”

The company’s third and final tier is residential care, which costs $7,500 each month for single occupancy in a studio apartment or $8,200 each month for single occupancy in a one-bedroom.

The Bella Groves community in Bulverde carries a one-to-four caregiver ratio, and all of the community’s staff are universal workers. Bella Groves plans to offer profit-sharing, 401(k) contributions and retention bonuses in order to attract and retain workers amid a tough time for hiring in senior living. And, Bella Groves is budgeting more money for its resident-facing services and amenities than other typical senior living communities, according to Lee.

“We’re budgeting for the things that actually matter in dementia care, and that’s caregivers, resident programming, and food,” he noted.

To that end, while the community itself is meant to turn a profit, Lee said Bella Groves is sacrificing some of its anticipated margin, with the intent of making up ground in the first and second membership tiers — and even exceeding typical senior living margins.

“If we hit anywhere close to our financial projections of our aggregate business line, it is going to far surpass the operating margin of the best senior living operators in our market,” Lee said.

Bella Groves held a grand opening for its community on Dec. 7; and anticipates launching its educational services in January, with other components coming online later in 2022. And beyond the San Antonio market, Lee believes Bella Groves has an open lane to help support older adults elsewhere in central Texas.

“You’ve got people either on one end of the spectrum doing senior housing, or on the other end of the spectrum doing dementia care services direct-to-family,” Lee said. “But you don’t have anybody who’s doing the full range.”

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