Next month, the Kane Regional Center in Scott plans to open a new feature.
It's called a memory care unit.
The result of a $1 million renovation inside the Allegheny County-operated nursing home, the new unit will have 45 Medicaid-approved beds and offer secure 24-hour care. Residents will have access to a home-like atmosphere, a dining area and indoor gardening spot, as well as programming to keep them engaged and active.
Dennis Biondo, executive director of the four Kane Regional Centers, said the new unit was designed to respond to what he described as a growing need: nursing care for senior citizens with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
"We're not the first, we won't be the last," to open such a unit, Mr. Biondo said.
In fact, the planned unit in Scott, which is awaiting approval from the state Department of Health, is the second to open at one of the Kane centers. The first, at the Kane's Glen Hazel location, opened in 2000.
There was high demand for spots at Glen Hazel, which also is a 45-bed unit, said Mr. Biondo and Bill LaLonde, a community outreach representative for Kane. That, coupled with the demographic trend of people living longer and often needing specialized care, prompted the county to expand its services.
Dementia, according to a 2014 report by the Alzheimer's Association, is an overall term for diseases and conditions involving a decline in memory or thinking skills. Those with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, eventually lose their ability to do basic functions including swallowing and walking.
Nationwide, about 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, according the same report. One in nine people above the age of 65 have the disease, and about one-third of people age 85 and older have it, the report said.
By 2025, the Alzheimer's Association expects that 7.1 million people age 65 and older will have the disease.
Alzheimer's disease is ultimately fatal, the report said. The disease was the sixth-leading cause of death in Allegheny County, accounting for 3 percent of the county's 13,280 deaths in 2010, according to figures posted online by the Allegheny County Health Department for that year, the most recent mortality figures available.
Lois Lutz, education and corporate specialist for the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Pennsylvania Chapter, said she can think of a couple places in Allegheny County, in addition to the Scott site, that have opened recently or plan to open additional facilities to provide speciality care for people with dementia.
"It's all quality of life," she said. "How can we make this person's life better every single day?"
Another location that plans to open a new memory care unit soon is Vincentian Home Personal Care in McCandless, said Jude Hazard, director of communications for Vincentian Collaborative System. The facility, with space for 10 residents, will have furniture and decor evocative of the 1930s and 1940s.
"We've found that people are less confused when they are immersed in an environment that reminds them of their early adulthood," he said, since people with Alzheimer's tend to lose their newer memories first and their older ones last.
There will be a similar approach at the Kane center, where therapeutic activities such as setting a table for dinner will be one of the activities organized by staff members for residents. Completing steps that are part of a routine practiced over a lifetime can be "very therapeutic," Mr. Biondo said.
Mr. Biondo said the county has had numerous inquires about the Scott facility. People interested in learning about the Kane Scott Memory Care Unit can call 412-422-6989. More information about the Kane centers is on the county website, www.alleghenycounty.us/kane.
An official opening for the Kane Scott Memory Care Unit is planned following state approval.
As for whether the county Kanes will add additional memory care units in future years, Mr. Biondo said: "We're not ruling that out."
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707.