Early Intervention at Heart of Home

RoseCrest, first licensed facility in state for dementia patients, closes gap between independence, full-time care

Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011Source: Craig Smith, Tribune Review

When Dorie Blair learned seven years ago that her husband had Alzheimer’s disease, she wanted him to be in a place where he could receive specialized treatment.

But she found his care at various facilities they tried unsatisfactory. Then, she heard about RoseCrest in Mars.

Dorie Blair, 78, of Valencia said her husband, Gilbert Blair, 80 – a retired mechanical engineer who migrated from Scotland to the United States via Canada – has adapted well to life at RoseCrest, which has been open since late June.

“It was like moving from one home to another,” she said. “The activities to stimulate his mind…I’m very pleased.”

RoseCrest, a 400,000-square-foot facility that will house 30 residents in two “cottages” connected my common areas, is the first facility in Pennsylvania to be licensed to offer dementia-specific, assisted living services to those in the early stages of the disorders, according to the state Department of Aging.

Operated by Lutheran SeniorLife, it serves people from Allegheny, Beaver and Butler Counties.

RoseCrest is a place where people can “age in place,” said Debbie Hollenbach, assisted living administrator.

She and others at RoseCrest said their facility fills a “niche” in dementia treatment. It’s designed for people in the early stages who don’t require round-the-clock care. Done in mission-style décor, the complex includes a chapel and a hair salon. Residents’ rooms include private baths and kitchenettes.

“Dementia” is a term used to describe a collection of symptoms caused by a number of disorders that affect the brain, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Alzheimer’s disease is one of them.

It’s a growing problem in an aging population. About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, with treatment costing $183 billion annually, the Alzheimer’s Association of Chicago reports. It is expected that 10 million baby boomers will be diagnosed with the disease. By 2050, the cost of treating Alzheimer’s could reach $1 trillion annually.

Facilities such as RoseCrest will be in increasing demand, say those who use and support the assisted-living concept for dementia patients.

“We desperately need these places,” said Mimi Steffen, 83, an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association who specializes in early-stage issues. “There is so much that can be done for patients in the early to mid-stages that can prolong their time.”

Steffen, who was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s in 2006, testified before the state House Aging and older Adult Services Committee in 2009 about the “new face” of Alzheimer’s disease – early intervention.

RoseCrest counts among its residents a college math instructor, a physical therapist and a missionary. It could be the start of a trend in dementia treatment, Steffen and others said.

“You could make the case that it could open up some possibilities,” said Steve Zarit, a Penn State professor and head of the university’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “It might be an interesting alternative.”

RoseCrest costs $4,690 per month, which covers a private room, meals and all personal care services, which range from assistance with dressing and bathing to medication management, to scheduling physician visits.

Medical intervention and therapies are not covered in the fee.

Annual costs at assisted living facilities in Pennsylvania can range from$13,599 to $87,600 per resident, according to a report by Richmond, VA financial services company, Genworth Financial. The company has for eight years done an annual survey comparing costs of nursing, personal and assisted-living facilities.

The average cost of a nursing home in the state is $89,425 for a semi-private room and $96,725 for a private room, according to the survey.

People who reach a point where they can no longer afford the rent at RoseCrest can tap into a benevolence fund administered by the Lutheran SeniorLife Foundation, Hollenbach said. RoseCrest also will serve as a hospice.

Early-stage programming is a major part of the strategic plan of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Greater Pennsylvania Chapter, said Kira Walters spokeswoman for the chapter’s Pittsburgh office, which covers 13 counties in Western and Southcentral Pennsylvania, including Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler and Washington.

“We are in the process of starting a pilot program in which the southcentral region, which will be soon be rolled out chapterwide,” she said. “These programs will include both educational programming and support groups geared toward early-stage individuals.”

The chapter recently hired an early stage coordinator and hold its first early stage emposium in April.

“It’s growing faster than we’ve seen before,” Walters said. “If diagnosed in the early stages, you can talk with your family members about a plan of care.”

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