ELKHART – A new dementia care facility that officials say is designed to give residents a sense of living a normal life will open on the Hubbard Hill campus on Monday.
The facility, on Elkhart’s southwest side, is called the Hubbard Hill Living Wisdom Center. It features four households that each accommodate nine residents in private rooms.
The houses are designed in Tudor, craftsman, farmhouse and colonial architectural styles. All four households face a massive enclosed glass atrium that serves as a backyard area, giving residents exposure to sunlight, natural air, the four seasons and an outdoor environment that tailors to their interests in a safe and secure setting.
Debbie Carriveau, executive director for the memory care center, said the living community is designed to give residents more freedom and fewer restrictions so they can experience a sense of normalcy. She said the concept for the facility began five years ago.
“We really wanted to create an environment that didn’t feel confining or limited,” Carriveau said. “That’s one of the things that people with dementia oftentimes experience when they’re in institutional living – they’re restricted, everything’s locked up and they can’t go out on their own. Everything just feels kind of close and tight.”
Dementia patients often don’t do well with a large number of people, Hubbard Hill officials said, which is why it was important to limit each household to a small number. It was also important to have the doors to the atrium unlocked so the residents don’t feel confined and can function the same as they did at home.
“This setting is safe and secure, but it isn’t restrictive,” said Darla Aldred, landscape architect partner for Arkos Design, who helped develop the atrium concept for Hubbard Hill. “If you lock people in a corridor, you disengage them from life and from the environment, and we didn’t want to do that.”
‘Tsunami of demand’
Hubbard Hill CEO Patrick Pingel said dementia care is the fastest-growing segment of assisted living, and that Hubbard’s dementia care center will help fill a need that is hugely underserved.
“There’s a tsunami coming of demand for services of dementia,” he said. “In our research, we found that there’s one in 10 people over the age of 65 and older diagnosed with dementia and the numbers are expected to get worse.”
Though the memory care facility won’t be able to house all in need, Pingel said it’s more important that it serves as a resource for the community.
“We want to be an education center as well to provide education and support for families and everyone who’s touched by this disease,” he said.
The concept for the project was a five-year process, Pingel said, that included working with experts in the dementia field and human environment.
“We studied hard and said, ‘What if we can start from scratch without any boundaries and without stepping outside the traditional approach of health care and all the restrictions that are there that aren’t good enough to serve people with dementia,’” he said.
“That’s what’s unique about this, the revolutionary approach that we talk about is freedom of access and connection with nature and normal patterns of living,” he continued. “When people come into a setting like this, they’re usually robbed of that suddenly. All the normalcy of life – their hobbies, their desires, the way they flow and move, the ability to go outside the front door is taken away from them so we’re giving that back to them – giving them back more options and more normalcy to their life.”
‘Because they matter’
In terms of programming, Carriveau said the center requests that caregivers provide a “life-history profile” for the patient, which includes their occupation, hobbies and interests. That way, the memory care unit can develop activities or a series of engagements based on those things that gave their life purpose, she said.
“I know if I have someone who’s been living in a household that was a farmer for the last 50 years, when they come to live here, I know that person’s going to want to dig in the dirt, plant vegetables and do things that they always did as a farmer,” Carriveau said as an example.
“So, we try to create therapeutic engagement,” she continued, “and when we’re talking about programming, that’s what we’re talking about, is activities that we can do with people that live in the household that get them actively engage and give them a purposeful living. So a reason for me to get up every day, things that make me feel that I can still contribute and be a part of what’s happening in the community.”
She said programs keep the patients engaged, which helps slow the progression of the disease.
“So even though we can’t stop it, we can keep people functional longer and we can slow down how rapidly they deteriorate,” she said.
The facility has created 45 jobs. Each of the households is staffed with dementia care specialists.
“The specialists are permanently assigned to that household to prevent from confusing the dementia patients as they have trouble with change,” Carriveau said. “It also allows the residents to build relationships with those that are taking care of them.”
One nurse, Bobbi Smith, who’s worked for Hubbard Hill for three years said she’s ecstatic for the facility to open and looks forward to helping to make the residents feel at home.
“It’s important that people with dementia don’t feel like they’re set to the side and I look forward to making sure that they don’t feel isolated but included because they matter,” she said.
The facility is at 28070 C.R. 24 W. Finishing touches are being done before it opens this week.
Officials did not disclose the total cost of the project.