Alzheimer’s disease is a hot topic and for good reason: The number of new cases being diagnosed each day is alarming; there is no cure; it is expensive care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and we are far from figuring out what works best. Finally it is always fatal and in most cases the death is terrible.
Alzheimer’s disease is a hot topic and for good reason: The number of new cases being diagnosed each day is alarming; there is no cure; it is expensive care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and we are far from figuring out what works best. Finally it is always fatal and in most cases the death is terrible. Given all of this it is remarkable that there is no “center of excellence” for the treatment and care of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
That will change as Abe’s Garden becomes a reality. Abe’s Garden was new to me, until Faith Ott, the president of Sage Age Strategies, a Senior Housing Forum blog partner and amazing thought leader and culture change guru came to me and said “you have to write about Abe’s Garden” an organization that is dear to her heart, one where she serves on the board of directors donating her time, expertise and money.
The Back Story
It was hard enough for Michael Shmerling to watch his father, Abe a physician who ran an ethnically integrated primary care practice in the low-income neighborhood of South Nashville at a time and place where that kind of thing was not progressive, only scandalous. But in Abe’s mind it was the right thing to do. Only a few months Abe retired, he began to exhibit signs of dementia. Over time his condition worsened and the family set about to find a great dementia care setting for him. He was there only a short time, when the senior community called Michael and his family to tell them, that Abe had become unmanageable and needed to move. They found a new placement only to have the pattern repeat a total of six times before his father passed from this life. Each move hastened the decline of his father’s physical and mental health.
As Michael processed his father’s decline and death from Alzheimer’s disease he developed a growing resolve to find a better way. Abe’s Garden was born of that tragedy.
While Abe’s Garden will be a dementia care, assisted living community, it would be more accurate to say that Abe’s Garden’s will exist primarily to find better ways, perhaps even the best way; to house, care for and create a rich life experience for those who suffer from dementia.
The project will sit on a gorgeous 7 acre parcel of land that is currently home to Park Manor a highly regarded senior residence that will continue to provide seniors independent living and assisted living care and become the anchor for Abe’s Garden. It will consist of 42 private residential care suites and a social model Alzheimer’s daycare program. It will serve as a research site for aging and dementia care specialists and students at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Included in the fundraising effort for Abe’s Garden is an endowed chair at Vanderbilt to lead out in the study of dementia care. The building and program is being designed to create a national model for dementia care that will be openly shared. This means sharing not just the successes, but the failures as well.
There is no doubt that dementia care is expensive and to that end, Abe’s Garden will mostly serve private pay residents. That being said a significant part of the mission of Abe’s Garden is to figure out ways to provide great dementia care that is cost efficient, and in keeping with Abe Shmerling’s values to further expand the Abe’s Garden Advised Fund at the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee which subsidizing care for low-income individuals.
They are committed to creating a program that will in most cases mean never having to move again. They will be experimenting with programming, staff training, lighting, flooring, interior design, meals, activities and anything else they can do to create an amazing wonderful place for dementia residents that can be replicated across the country. They expect to break ground in November of 2013 and to accept their first residents about a year later.
To learn more and stay on top of their progress go to the Abe’s Garden website where you can also sign-up for their newsletter.
I wish them all the best and hope they are successful beyond their dreams; however, I would not be excited about this layout. I’ve owned and operated a few ALZ properties since 1997 and this one seems to complicated for the residents and the design seems to require some staff inefficiencies.
I commend their efforts but recommend they coordinate with the Alzheimer’s Activity Center in San Jose. It is the first large capacity dementia specific program in the US. It is extremely successful and has been doing it for 25 yrs. It was started by a physician and his wife. Their building was built specifically for people with dementia.
Abe’s Garden presents a great opportunity to expand our understanding of how to support people (and their families) living with dementia. Hopefully there will be occasions where collaborative research and testing are pursued. There are a number of memory care communities, universities and organizations (Alzheimer’s Association) that are working hard to stay on the cutting edge of what works best in memory support. The social and economic challenges of dementia require a massive and coordinated response.