By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
BELLEVILLE — Nearly 90 years after it began, a local senior community is embarking on a new chapter with a $30 million investment in the area’s growing, elderly population.
St. Paul’s Senior Community opened the doors in August on a new, three-floor facility that connects to existing independent living apartments and provides Medicare rehabilitation services, skilled nursing, memory care and assisted living. It’s a unique combination in a single setting.
“We’re the only one like it in a 25-mile radius,” said Debra Pierce, community outreach director. “Seeing is believing with this new facility.” She said it’s the only faith-based, non-profit senior living community in the area with Medicare and Medicaid availability.
The facilities are located in the 1000 block of West E. Street in Belleville. A new, 95,000-square-foot building replaces a now-closed nursing home and sheltered care at the westernmost end of the seven-acre campus. The nursing home should be razed by the end of September to make way for more parking. The new building is on the easternmost end of the site, adjacent to the 53-unit independent living complex.
The new building was developed with St. Andrew’s Management Services, BSI Constructors, The Lawrence Group architects and Hercules Construction Management. The facility provides six home-like units, referred to as “person-centered care” households, each with an eat-in kitchen and dining room, a living room with a cozy hearth and a patio or balcony. It’s all designed to provide a homey environment that was reflected in the original St. Paul’s Home for the Aged, which began in 1926. Each of the households can hold approximately 20 to 22 residents.
There are four nursing households for long-term care or short-term rehab. Each of them has a combination of private and companion rooms.
There is also one sheltered care (assisted living) household with a combination of companion, private studios and one- bedroom apartments.
And there is one memory care household designed specifically for the individual with Alzheimer’s or related impairments.
There is also a Medicare rehabilitation wing. People can come here for short term rehab stays and can continue with therapy as an outpatient after they return home.
The idea is to meet the needs of older residents from the time they are downsizing their residential living through the end of their lives. This continuum of care benefits the residents, she said.
“They did a market feasibility survey that determined this was going to be needed. We’ve got a lot of people who want to retire in this area. They don’t want to leave; they want to age in place,” Pierce said.
The community is sponsored by The United Church of Christ and governed by a board comprised of individuals from the congregations of St. Paul’s Church, Christ Church and Trinity Church and the local community.
Pierce said St. Paul’s origins date to 1918 when the church began talking about the need for such a facility. In 1926, businessman Walter Kohl donated the property. St. Paul’s opened in 1927 with 13 residents.
Today, there are 53 independent living units with 60-plus residents. Another 134 residents are housed in the assisted living/skilled care building. Skilled care has a waiting list, but there are a few openings in the assisted living and memory care units.
Ground was broken on the project in December 2013. The project was finance mainly through traditional bank financing but there is also an ongoing capital campaign, with sponsorships available, coordinated by a foundation.
“Twenty-five hundred dollars is the minimum sponsorship and gives you a naming opportunity on a plaque that we’ll be displayed on a wall. There are also bench and courtyard opportunities,” Pierce said. For increasing amounts, porches, patios, individual rooms and more can be named for individuals.
St. Paul’s Senior Community is managed by St. Andrew’s Management Services, a St. Louis-based, not-for-profit, faith-based organization with operations in both Missouri and Illinois.
Board members were unanimous in their approach, opting to stay in the current location and replace the nursing home and sheltered care with new, state-of-the-art facilities while maintaining the independent living apartments.
Pierce took the Illinois Business Journal on a tour of the complex, pointing out a number of amenities:
– Wi-fi capabilities with electronic medical records for residents.
– A community room /chapel with serving kitchen.
– Private gardens in the memory care, rehab and independent living areas.
– A campus beauty salon, grade level parking and a covered drop-off entrance that opens into a secured, two-story lobby and reception area.
– Private kitchen and dining with open kitchen 24 hours a day. Residents can easily select what they want to eat, help with cooking if they desire or dine with families if they choose.
– Private bedrooms with specially designed shower, folding grab bars, and tilt-down mirrors and sinks that will accommodate wheelchairs.
– Spas with instant filling therapeutic whirlpool tubs, heated towels and warming lamps to make the bathing experience more enjoyable
– Specially designed furniture, such as lift chairs.
“This was a big project to be involved in,” Pierce said. “You don’t realize how big this is from the outside; it’s a big, big building.”
Each of the households will be staffed by one nurse and three certified nurse aides. Hospitality staff, including those who help in the kitchens, are also present.
The greater the level of the care, the more intense the staffing.
“Assisted living does not require as much care. Skilled care, though, is 24-hour long-term care,” Pierce said.
The cost to the resident depends on their level of care. The retirement apartments begin at $2,108 a month. Nursing care for a semiprivate room is $225 a day. Memory care is $170 to $185 a day.
Medicare services are usually covered by traditional Medicare and some private insurance.
The advantage to the residents is the ability to stay longer as they get older and their mobility changes.
“I think people need to look at this as an option because of the different levels of care. Few places have all the options at one location,” Pierce said.
Hospitality and care partners in each household have been given special education and instruction over the last year in the person-centered care model. The Memory Care Staff has been specially trained by the Alzheimer’s Association.
For instance, there is a liberalized medication policy to assure medicines are given conveniently. Staff becomes acquainted with needs of residents, much like they would if caring for them in their own home, she said.