Memory care growth reflects local needs

MARSHALL – The need was strong, local care providers said. But the support resources and assisted living care for people living with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia were limited. And with the numbers of people with memory loss expected to rise in the future, it was definitely time to act.

Memory support services in Marshall have grown significantly in recent years, with some of the biggest leaps taking place this summer. One memory care facility, Heritage Lane, is getting ready for residents to move in, while another, called the Waters at Boulder Estates, is under construction. Between them, the two facilities will open up 51 housing units for people with dementia. At the same time, services like a community memory loss support group, and the Adult Day Program at Avera Morningside Heights Care Center, are also helping families and caregivers.

Local care providers say those are all positive steps toward meeting a strong community need – although the challenge won’t go away.

“Research in Minnesota shows that the population is living longer, and there’s an increase in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jamie Enger at Boulder Estates in Marshall. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there will be 110,000 Minnesotans with Alzheimer’s disease in 2025. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias also have a large financial and psychological impact for caregivers.

Local care providers said there’s been a recognized need for memory care services in the Marshall area in the past several years. In 2004, Morningside Heights opened a 12-bed, secure memory care unit. At the time, it helped pioneer memory support care in Marshall, said Avera Marshall President and CEO Mary Maertens.

“We were proud to offer that service,” Maertens said.

Dodie Derynck, vice president of residential care services at Avera Marshall, said the memory care unit was designed as more of an assisted-living space, geared toward residents who were still physically independent but had symptoms of memory loss.

“It was a different environment, a different way to care for people,” Derynck said.

More recently, senior housing construction in Marshall has included memory care. Heritage Pointe, a senior living facility nearing completion on the former Marshall Junior High site, will have an attached memory support facility called Heritage Lane. Heritage Lane has 20 private suites for residents with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Boulder Estates, which has been part of Marshall since 1998, is also building a new memory care facility which will have 31 private units. Groundwork for the new facility began this spring on Village Drive, just across the street from Boulder Estates.

“The investors and management knew from the start that when we built a facility, memory care would be part of it,” said Heritage Pointe Executive Director Betsy Jo Kack. A study of the Marshall region showed a definite need for memory support services, she said.

A similar idea was also behind construction of the Waters, Enger said.

“We noticed the need in Marshall,” and surrounding communities, she said. It can be difficult to find openings at existing memory care facilities, let alone find care that’s the best fit for a family member or loved one.

Both Heritage Place and the Waters will be secure facilities to keep residents safe from wandering and will offer 24-hour care. However, Kack and Enger said the facilities are also designed to help residents feel at home and enjoy a good quality of life. Having a smaller, more familiar group of people during group activities can help draw residents out and get them socializing, Enger said.

Heritage Pointe Director of Marketing Jaen Weilage said Heritage Place also welcomes residents’ families or loved ones to visit. The facility also plans to offer respite care in the future.

Heritage Pointe and Heritage Lane will gradually begin moving in residents in August, said Director of Health Services Leah Donner. While there are units still available, there’s been a lot of community interest and inquiries, she said.

Walls haven’t even been raised at the Waters construction site, but Enger said there’s also been a definite interest from potential residents and their families.

With more assisted living options for people with memory loss opening up in the community, Morningside Heights has transitioned away from having dedicated memory care unit.

“We are fortunate to have new services in the marketplace,” Maertens said.

Maertens said the transition didn’t require staff layoffs, and staff also worked with memory care residents’ families to ensure they would get the most appropriate care. In some cases, she said, assisted living like what’s being offered at Heritage Lane, the Waters, or other facilities could be the best choice. Other residents might need additional care and stay at Morningside Heights.

Derynck said the former memory care area was originally designed to be flexible. Now, it’s being geared toward other kinds of care, like short-term rehabilitation.

“It was sad to see something we built go,” Derynck said, but she said it’s been a good transition, and one that opens up new opportunities for care.

Other local resources and support services for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s and their caregivers have also grown. The Adult Day Services program at Avera Morningside Heights can help give caregivers a much-needed respite, or complement assisted living care.

“There are more people than you realize who are giving 24-hour care,” for a spouse or family member, Weilage said.

A local support group for caregivers and people coping with a loved one’s memory loss has also grown, going from monthly to weekly meetings.

“It was hard for people to go a month between meetings,” Enger said.

The support group gives community members a chance to learn about memory loss, how to cope with a loved one’s condition, and share information and experiences. The memory loss support group now meets Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m., at the Courtyard Cafe in Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. Although the meetings are at the hospital campus, staff from Morningside Heights, Hill Street Place, Heritage Pointe and Boulder Estates are all working together to host the support group, Weilage said. Meeting at Avera Marshall also gives family members and caregivers a chance for respite care through Adult Day Services, she said.

Local care providers said there are other resources to learn about memory loss, including the Alzheimer’s Association, at Boulder Estates and Heritage Pointe staff said they are also available to answer questions about the new facilities in Marshall.