Former Respite House transforms into affordable memory care space

October 5, 2017  
Filed under News

First-of-its-kind facility set for a January opening in Williston

By Jason Starr
Observer staff
A former respite house vacated last year on Allen Brook Lane in Williston will be transformed into the first memory care facility in Vermont dedicated exclusively to low-income Vermonters with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Cathedral Square, a non-profit based in Burlington that runs senior housing facilities in Chittenden and Franklin counties, closed on a purchase of the property in September. A $250,000 grant from the UVM Medical Center, as well as a $200,000 grant from the Hoehl Family Foundation and a $100,000 grant from the Amy Tarrant Foundation, helped make the purchase and renovation a reality.

Called “Memory Care at Allen Brook,” the facility is set to open in January.
It will have 14 apartments with 24-hour staff trained in dementia care and security to prevent residents from wandering off the property. Cathedral Square has already received inquiries, although it is not yet accepting applications.
“We are very excited. The hard part is (meeting) the demand. This is just a drop in the bucket in terms of what’s needed,” said Cathedral Square Director of Operations Laura Wilson.
The building was formerly the home of the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle counties’ respite house. The VNA opened a new respite house in Colchester last year.
In contrast to several for-profit memory care facilities recently built in Chittenden County, the Cathedral Square facility will accept Medicaid patients at the time of admission. For-profit facilities cost an average of about $10,000 per month, Wilson said. When a resident can no longer afford the cost, in most cases they are forced out to look for a different facility that accepts Medicaid, she said.
That’s the reality that Hinesburg resident Karen Pike is facing with the care of her 81-year-old mother, who is living with dementia. At a press conference Monday announcing the facility, Pike said the $10,000-per-month cost of the memory care facility where her mother currently resides will have depleted her mother’s entire retirement savings by year’s end. In January, she will be forced to leave the facility. Meanwhile, Medicaid won’t consider her application until her mother has less than $10,000.
“I’m at a loss right now,” Pike said. “My mom took great care of me, and I’ve tried to do the same for her, and she’s going to go from comfortable with a $400,000 retirement to virtually homeless in less than a few months.
“I don’t think this story is very different from thousands of Vermonters. I mean, the system is broken … This is a wonderful facility. I’m thrilled. We need about 200 more.”
There are about 12,000 Vermonters living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, according to Cathedral Square. The organization expects that number to increase to 17,000 within the next decade.
People needing memory care have three ways to pay, Wilson said: personal savings, long-term care insurance and Medicaid. But a majority of for-profit facilities either don’t accept Medicaid patients or have a small number of rooms reserved for them, she said.
“(There is) tremendous need in our community for an assisted-living residence for low-income Vermonters with dementia,” said Martha Richardson, executive director of the Williston-based Alzheimer’s Association of Vermont. “Life with dementia is extremely difficult even if you have wealth. If you are without means, there is quite literally nowhere to go.”
Cathedral Square is partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association of Vermont for dementia-care training for staff and programming for residents.
“We have people every day who are living at the hospital because there is no safe discharge for them,” UVM Medical Center President and Chief Operating Officer Eileen Whalen said at the press conference. “They no longer can live with their families. They no longer have places to go, whether it’s because of means or just the (lack) of availability of a safe location … This is a dream come true for many of our patients.
“This is the right thing to do in our community.”




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