New Alzheimer's Facilities 'Only the Beginning' Assisted-Living Centers Grow as Population Ages

By Mask, Teresa | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 17, 1998 | Go to article overview

New Alzheimer's Facilities 'Only the Beginning' Assisted-Living Centers Grow as Population Ages


Mask, Teresa, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer

Seniors with Alzheimer's have their choice of care centers in the suburbs.

This month a new one is opening in Wheaton, and at least five others are planned for the region, including centers in Hoffman Estates, Glen Ellyn and Geneva.

Traditionally, nursing homes have been the only option for people with Alzheimer's, a disease that erases memory and slowly destroys the brain. But these new centers are at assisted-living sites, which combine housing and health care. Workers are on hand to remind residents to take their medicine or eat a meal, or to make sure patients don't wander off the premises.

"Nursing homes can sometimes be the worst place for them," said Karen Wayne, president and CEO of Assisted-Living Federation of America. "Their mind may be confused, but their bodies are fine."

People with Alzheimer's "like to wander, and many assisted-living facilities have built-in wandering paths and healing gardens," she said.

The increase in assisted-living sites coincides with an increase in the number of senior citizens in the suburbs, experts say.

"This is only the beginning," said Kent Barnheiser, executive director of the Greater Chicagoland chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

With baby boomers nearing senior citizen status, census projections say people over 55 will make up 25 percent of the 2.2 million people expected to live in suburban Cook County by 2001. In 1980, seniors made up 20 percent of suburban Cook County's population.

In other suburban counties, those percentages will rise from the lower to upper teens.

At least 10 percent of those 60 and older will have Alzheimer's, said Joe Suffi, administrator of Provena Geneva Care Center.

Today, about 102,000 people in Cook, DuPage, Lake and Kane counties have Alzheimer's.

Several suburban centers already offer Alzheimer's units and more are coming.

For example, this month Brighton Gardens of Marriott - which has assisted-living centers in Arlington Heights, Burr Ridge and Prospect Heights - will open one in Wheaton. It will be the first to offer a unit specifically for people with Alzheimer's.

By summer, Luther Home in Arlington Heights expects to unveil its new Crossroads Neighborhood, which will house at least 60 people with Alzheimer's.

ManorCare is building a 60-bed extended-stay Alzheimer's facility on Geneva's west side.

And in Glen Ellyn, a developer is proposing an Alzheimer's assisted-living complex near the Baker Hill housing complex.

Researchers don't know what causes Alzheimer's. There is no known cure. But most agree it doesn't hurt for victims to remain active, thus keeping their minds stimulated.

"The reality is as Americans live longer, the probability of developing some type of dementia is a statistical probability," said Shael Bellows, president of First Health Care Associates, which runs The Benchmark. …

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