Expansion of dementia care facility Livewell underway in Southington

SOUTHINGTON — Construction is underway at Livewell on an expansion that will add more buildings and more capabilities to the dementia care facility on South Main Street.

Livewell leaders say new housing and the new Center for Resilient Living will bring a fresh approach to helping those with dementia and cognitive diseases.

Dorm-style housing will allow community living for dementia patients as well as family members. The resilient living center will offer classes, screenings and help for Livewell residents as well as those who live elsewhere. After the buildings are completed next year, the facility’s existing buildings will be renovated.

Livewell president Michael Smith said the campus upgrade was inspired by community-style facilities in other countries, input from dementia patients and college campuses. Livewell was built in 1992, Smith said, and the work will help it remain a leader in cognitive disease care.

The nonprofit group was formerly known as the Alzheimer’s Resource Center.

Options for living

Dementia care is often performed in memory care units of assisted living facilities. Smith said the model is to have a secure and locked wing of a larger facility and to bring in all the things residents need.

“That doesn’t feel robust, that doesn’t feel like living well,” Smith said.

While Livewell will continue to have assisted living and skilled care options, the new housing under construction allows for apartment-style living. The entire campus will be secure, Smith said, using technology such as wearable devices that can track where residents go. This allows residents to use the whole property.

“Because you live with a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to withdrawing from community,” Smith said.

The buildings under construction are designed to imitate four single family homes in a New England style. Each will have four two-bedroom apartments and a third floor apartment for a non-patient resident, such as an occupational therapy student.

They’ll be located by the Quinnipiac River and called the river homes.

Getting rid of ‘wait list’

Heidi Gil, Livewell’s chief strategy officer, said the facility often receives calls from families in a crisis. There’s not enough screening and diagnosis for cognitive diseases, she said, which leads people to ignore warning signs until a loved one is exhibiting major cognitive problems.

Even after a dementia diagnosis, there’s little care until someone needs assisted living. Smith said this was like waiting until a cancer patient was at stage four before starting treatment.

“No one would do that,” Smith said.

The resilient living center was designed to help residents strengthen their brain and learn to live with the disease.

Some of the resources planned for the center are cognitive health screenings, classes on cooking for brain health and physical fitness.

People shouldn’t have to wait until they’re in a facility to get that type of help, Gil said. Livewell’s center will be open for non-residents, can help people remain in their homes for longer and avoid a scramble for help during a crisis.

“We don’t want there to be a wait list anymore. We want a person who experiences dementia to get resources when they need them,” Smith said. “You’ve got diabetes, here’s how your lifestyle changes. You’ve got dementia, here’s how your lifestyle changes and what we can do to support you.”

Older styles of living with multiple people to a room will be renovated to single-room accommodations. Although the facility is adding new housing, its total living units will remain about the same due to configuration changes.

While the existing residential buildings are under renovation, Smith said intake will be restricted from this fall until the spring of next year. By that time the resilient living center will be open.

Town approval for expansion

Livewell is able to borrow up to $90 million in tax-free bonds for the work following support from the Town Council last summer. The Internal Revenue Service requires a public hearing and vote of support from the highest municipal body in order to issue the bonds.

Southington won’t be responsible for repaying the bonds.

Town leaders spoke in favor of Livewell’s expansion and the services it provides following the vote.

Those with suggestions about how Livewell can serve the population living with dementia can call the facility at 860-628-9000.

Reporter Jesse Buchanan can be reached at jbuchanan@record-journal.com.


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