116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A new senior living community that employs a “homelike” model of care for those with memory loss will be built in northeast Cedar Rapids later this year.
UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids is partnering with a Cedar Falls-based senior living company, Western Home Services, to construct the Cottages at UnityPoint Way.
The $25 million project, at 8405 Council St. NE in Cedar Rapids, will break ground in fall 2021. The facility is expected to open in late 2022.
“With an anticipated growth of 18.3 percent in the 65-plus age demographic in the Cedar Rapids area, this community will provide much needed memory/dementia care housing,” said Michelle Niermann, UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids president and chief executive officer.
The Cottages at UnityPoint Way includes construction of three free-standing memory care cottages with 16 to 20 units each.
These facilities use a specific care model that creates an environment prompting a “household way of life” for individuals with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or otherwise deal with memory loss, officials say.
“The whole goal was to create an environment that allows our residents to live with dementia just as full of life as possible for as long as possible,“ Western Home Services CEO Kris Hansen said.
These secure, homelike settings will include a private bedroom and bathroom for each resident. It also will have a common area with a kitchen, where residents can prepare meals and have other activities to the degree to which they are able, Hansen said.
Residents also will be able to set their own schedules, going to bed and eating meals on their own time.
Staff in the cottages, which are led by a household coordinator, also functions like a household, Hansen said.
“Instead of having seven different disciplines — housekeeping, dietary, things like that — this group really does a little bit of everything,” Hansen said. “It functions more like a family in a household would, where they all participate. There’s no job that’s not theirs.”
Western Home Services, which owns and operates senior living communities across Iowa, first developed and opened two cottages using the household model of care in Cedar Falls. Those facilities opened in June 2015.
Western Home Services has a 150-acre flagship campus in Cedar Falls, where the company houses about 1,100 residents.
The Cottages at UnityPoint Way will be located next to St. Luke’s Transitional Care Center, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility for patients recovering from an injury, surgery or serious illness.
Even as new senior living centers and long-term care facilities are opened in Eastern Iowa and across the state, industry leaders say these facilities are dealing with critical shortages in direct care workers and other staff.
According to federal data complied by AARP, 23.5 percent of long-term care facilities in Iowa were experiencing a shortage of nurses and aides in June. Data shows that shortage has been growing in recent months.
“There is no bigger thing on my or this organization’s radar right now than this issue,” Hansen said.
Hansen said his company is working with UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids to offer a good benefits package to entice workers. However, he said their focus has been on determining how to provide staff the flexibility they want in their roles while maintaining quality of care for residents.
"We just got to figure out how to be more flexible and meet people where they're at and to the degree possible, but we also have such regulatory constraints and fiscal constraints,“ Hansen said. ”It makes it a challenge.“
But at the end of the day, as Iowa’s population continues to age, Hansen said they simply need more people joining this profession.
“There’s no silver bullet to this, and it’s going to be hard work,” he said.
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