Gardens at Westlake, the retirement and assisted living facility on Detroit Road, plans to build a 24-bed dementia care unit.

The new, one-floor unit will be built at the west end of the Gardens property. A preliminary estimate on the dollar value of the proposed project is $4.5 million, according to Jim Parker, vice president of finance and acquisition at Spectrum Retirement Communities, the owner of Gardens of Westlake.

Christina Melarango, executive director of Gardens at Westlake, said the goal is to begin construction in March and open the unit in the summer of 2010.

Plans for the project will be presented to the Westlake Planning

Commission at its Sept. 12 meeting, Melarango said. City Council will need to approve a conditional use permit for the unit to open.

Beds in the private-payment unit will be made available both for existing Gardens residents who develop

dementia and new residents with memory problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, Melarango said. The goal at Gardens, she said, is to provide residents with a place they can call home until the end of life.

All bedrooms in the dementia care unit will be private. The secure unit will also include its salon, spa kitchen area and courtyard.

Gardens at Westlake, which currently employs 60 workers, expects to hire about 20 new employees once the dementia care unit opens, Melarango said.

Melarango emphasized that Gardens is building a new unit dedicated to

caring for memory-impaired persons, not simply rechristening an existing wing as a dementia-care facility.

“This disease requires specially trained staff,” Melarango said.

Memory-impaired persons require unique attention, she said, and the new unit will be specifically designed with dementia residents in mind.

Even the carpeting will receive special attention. Carpeting with a design pattern that’s too busy will be disconcerting to dementia patients, Melarango said.

The goal will be to keep residents of the new unit engaged but not overly stimulated, she added.

Gardens at Westlake is one of 21 senior living communities in nine states owned by Spectrum, a privately owned company based in Denver. Four of Spectrum’s locations already include dementia care units, according to Kathleen MacDonald, Spectrum’s vice president of marketing.

In addition to Gardens at Westlake, a Spectrum property in Kansas also plans on adding a dementia care unit next year, MacDonald said. And four new assisted living facilities that Spectrum plans to open next year will be built with dementia care units, she noted.

Demographics are driving the construction of such units, MacDonald said.

“As the population ages, this is becoming more and more of a need,” she said.

“Our model going forward is to

include memory care units because (dementia) is becoming more and more prevalent and the need is definitely there,” she added.

Dementia care units operated by the privately-owned Spectrum will allow residents to keep small pets, such as small dogs, cats and birds.

“A lot of times, it’s really therapeutic to have a pet,” MacDonald said.

Spectrum’s goal at such units will be to help residents maintain their dignity through activities such as exercise and gardening, she said.


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