- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

RIVERTON, Ill. (AP) - The substandard care that Cari Claussen’s grandmother received in a Springfield nursing home when Claussen was a teenager spawned her passion for service.

“It just broke my heart,” said Claussen, 33, who plans to open an assisted-living center in March that specializes in the care of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

“I just wanted to be able to be a voice for the elderly,” said Claussen, a Sherman resident who will be administrator and part-owner of Country Lane Memory Care Assisted Living, a 50-bed facility in Riverton.

Bad care, she said, is “just not going to be an option for Country Lane. The care will be good.”

The $2.8 million center, under construction at 875 Riverton Road and expected to open in March, is one of a growing number of residential options for people with memory-related disorders in the Springfield area.

Entrepreneurs and organizations in Springfield, like other parts of the state and nation, are seeing a business opportunity and trying to satisfy a need by an aging population, said Wayne Smallwood, executive director of the Springfield-based Affordable Assisted Living Coalition.

The number of Illinoisans with Alzheimer’s, which causes progressive deterioration of memory and mental function, is expected to grow from 210,000 in 2015 to 260,000 by 2025 - an increase of almost one-fourth.

Likewise, Medicaid spending on health care services - including nursing home care - for Illinoisans with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is expected to rise from $1.46 billion in 2015 to $2.1 billion in 2025, according to a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association.

Too few options

People with dementia don’t have enough affordable housing options, especially when they need smaller, homelike settings after it has become too difficult for them to remain in their own homes, an Alzheimer’s Association official said.

It’s best that families of loved ones dealing with memory problems consider all the options before there’s a crisis, said Richard Apple, a Rockford-based senior manager of care navigation at the association’s Greater Illinois Chapter.

The end-of-year holidays can present opportunities for these conversations, he said.

“The holiday period is often when changes are noted because family and friends are in town who haven’t seen them for a while and the stress of the holidays makes it harder for the person with dementia to not show symptoms,” Apple said.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s help line can be a good resource for families, he said.

Assisted-living centers, which provide limited nursing care, offer “a much more homelike environment than a nursing home, and it’s less expensive than a nursing home,” Apple said.

There are 381 assisted-living centers in Illinois, and 103 of them offer memory-care units. Another 84 are freestanding memory-care facilities, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

But assisted-living centers accept only private payments and often cost more than $50,000 per year, so residents must leave if they don’t have long-term care insurance or their assets run out.

Residents also may have to leave if their health declines to the point that they require care in an intermediate-care or skilled-care nursing home.

Many people with dementia are in nursing homes - even though they don’t need that higher level of care - because nursing homes generally accept Medicaid, Smallwood said. Medicaid, funded by the federal and state government, covers long-term care for indigent patients.

In Illinois, Supportive Living Facilities provide care that’s similar to assisted living and accept Medicaid. The Medicaid payments supportive living facilities receive are lower than those received by nursing homes, but the state has allowed only 145 Supportive Living centers to open.

Supportive Living facilities serve 12,000 people statewide, and only five - in South Elgin, North Aurora, Rantoul, Effingham and Decatur - receive additional Medicaid funding for specialized memory-care units, Smallwood said.

The state, for the time being, isn’t allowing more of these centers to open, though there’s a need and an interest by the business community, Smallwood said.

First-hand knowledge

Assisted-living centers don’t face the regulatory hurdles that must be overcome to open a Supportive Living center or nursing home.

Claussen said she has been planning the Country Lane facility for more than two years. Her business partner is her father, rural Sherman farmer Bruce Gillman, who owns the seven acres of former farm ground on which the center will sit.

“It’s a beautiful, country setting,” she said.

Claussen said she recalled visiting her maternal grandmother in the nursing home. The Country Lane website says Claussen would arrive at the facility “and find her grandmother alone, frightened and sitting for hours on a soiled chair pad because the staff neglected to properly care for her.”

Claussen’s grandmother, who had cancer and had lost the ability to speak, died at age 78.

Claussen went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Illinois Springfield. She said she worked as an elder abuse investigator for Senior Services of Central Illinois and as a case manager for Mental Health Centers of Central Illinois before becoming a program director at another memory-care facility in the area.

She is married to a Riverton electrical lineman, and they have a 2-year-old son.

The building was designed by Steckel Parker Architects Inc. to avoid confusion by residents. “Our whole building is centered around our dining room,” she said.

The price of living at Country Lane starts at $4,350 per month and increases based on the level of care needed, she said. Prices include food and services such as laundry, housekeeping and utilities.

Claussen said the one-story 22,000-square-foot facility, which will employ about 45 people, will include a theater room, activity room, two spas and two lounge areas. There will be 20 semi-private and 10 private rooms.

Claussen said she expects to attract many residents from the small towns around Springfield. There is room on the site for expansion, she said.

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Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, http://bit.ly/1lKUqAP

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com

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