When insurance firms launched social media initiatives, the results were rewarding.
June 02--The prospect of a tripling in the number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease has helped spark at least three multimillion-dollar developments in the region and thousands more around the country.
More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's. That number is expected to balloon to more than 16 million by 2050 "barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent, slow or stop the disease," according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Private developers and investment firms are behind some efforts to meet anticipated demand for services.
In southwest Ohio, a Seattle-based investment firm, Portland architect and Rochester, N.Y.-based development company are collaborating on a $12 million to $15 million assisted living center in Springboro that will cater to private-paying residents with Alzheimer's and dementia.
"You can bet that investors are certainly scanning the demographic environment to be the first to invest in it," said Randy Sparks, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Dayton specializing in buyer behavior and analysis.
Similar facilities are planned by out-of-state developers in Centerville and Mason. All three facilities could be open by next summer.
"This is happening all over the nation," said Govind Bharwani in the Department of Biomedical, Industrial & Human Factors Engineering at Wright State University. "The Alzheimer's-dementia care need is the fastest growing over the next 10 years."
The Springboro project is among the latest being pursued by Rochester-based Wegman Companies and Columbia Pacific Advisors, a Seattle firm that is providing funding for more than $50 million in development at multiple sites, according to Joe McEntee, a vice president with Wegman.
Oregon-based Lenity Architecture, which is designing the Springboro facility, has developed more "350 senior housing projects around the globe," according to its web site.
The Wegman-Columbia partnership already operates Long Cove Point, an assisted living center with a memory-care unit near Mason in Deerfield Twp., as well as facilities in New York, Massachusetts and Maine, McEntee said.
Over the next year, it plans to open new facilities in New York and Connecticut, as well as Springboro and "a few other markets we are looking into at this time," according to McEntee.
"We targeted Springboro because of the demographics there," said McEntee.
Springboro is among the region's most affluent communities. Care typically is set up within 10 miles of a family, according to industry experts.
Rates have not been set at Springboro Senior Living, which would accommodate 111 residents, including a 25-bed unit for memory care for seniors who can afford to pay privately, McEntee said.
"The Springboro building is the new prototype," McEntee added.
It would employ about 60 people -- 35-to-40 full-time -- on 7.5 acres on west Central Avenue (Ohio 73), east of Interstate 75.
In Centerville, Michigan-based Randall Residence, which operates a retirement community in Tipp City and four other facilities in Ohio, has proposed memory support care services in a 22-building complex on Social Row Road.
The center would be part of a $60 million, 65-acre development that also would include 75 homes. The main assisted-care building, featuring the memory care, is to open next summer.
Next spring in Mason, JEA Senior Living plans to open Stonebridge Alzheimer's Special Care Center. In February, the Mason City Council rezoned 17 acres, eight for the facility for people with Alzheimer's, dementia and other memory problems.
JEA, based in Vancouver, Wash., plans to accommodate 64 residents and employ about 40 workers at the Mason center, one of three the company plans to open in the next year in Ohio.
"They want to start building as soon as they can," said Jeff Chamot, an agent for Neyer Properties, the firm selling the property.
The one-story building is to cost an estimated $5.6 million to construct, according to city documents.
35,000 in region have Alzheimer's
One in eight older Americans comprise the estimated 5.4 million with Alzheimer's, the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented or cured, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
An estimated 250,000 Ohioans have Alzheimer's, including 35,000 in the region that includes Montgomery, Greene, Clark, Miami, Shelby, Darke, Preble, Logan and Miami counties, according to Laurel Kerr, program director for the Alzheimer's Association in the Miami Valley.
Last year, there were almost 49,000 memory care units undergoing construction, according to the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry.
Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices, a nonprofit based in Warren County, plans $45 million in additional assisted living facilities over the next three years for a spectrum of needs including memory care.
Medicare doesn't cover long-term care in assisted living or nursing homes, according to Doug McGarry, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging.
In most cases, private assets must be spent down to $1,500 before Medicaid will reimburse a provider through a waiver program, McGarry said.
"There are very few of the new memory units that are licensed for our assisted-living waiver," McGarry said.
Care is costly
McGarry said private care rates range widely. Linda Smith, a Kettering woman shopping for care for her mother, said she was quoted rates of as high as $5,000 to $6,000 a month for a high level of care.
Smith's 84-year-old mother, Wilma, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 2 1/2 years ago. Smith and her siblings have decided it no longer will be safe for their mother to continue to live on her own by the end of the summer.
Families need to look for facilities that provide residents with meaning, purpose, connection and active engagement, Kerr said.
"There are ways to do that that don't cost a lot of money. It requires staff training," Kerr said. "It's a matter of having the right people to begin with."
Smith and her husband, Craig, have been shopping for about four months, narrowing choices close to home.
The family expects to be able to afford private care, thanks to two long-term care insurance policies and their mother's savings.
"I'm not sure how many people are in that situation," Smith said. "I feel very fortunate."
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