Memory-care needs drive proposal

SCARBOROUGH – Recognizing the burgeoning need for dementia care facilities, the Scarborough Town Council has cast a favorable eye on a proposal by the Piper Shores retirement community to build a new memory care unit on its seaside campus.

What the council is not in favor of, though, is a long-term proposal by Piper Shores to also build 52 new independent living units, which would require building on some of the 96 acres protected by a conservation easement.

The creation of Piper Shores was approved under a controversial contract zone in 1997, and the expansion projects would require an amendment to that contract zone, which is why officials with Piper Shores requested a workshop with the Town Council last week.

During the meeting, held on Sept. 17, Jim Adamowicz, CEO of Piper Shores, said the organization must “evolve to serve both current and future generations.”

He said there is a greater demand for senior living services, particularly assisted care and dementia care.

“We are on the cusp of the greatest demographic change in history,” Adamowicz told the council, “the aging of the baby boomers.”

He said the needs of baby boomers will have a “profound societal impact” and that seniors are already demanding “high quality care and services,” which he said Piper Shores wants to provide.

Following the council workshop, Adamowicz told the Current adding a memory care unit at Piper Shores is based on demand from both potential clients and current residents. The organization provides limited memory care services now, Adamowicz said, but Piper Shores would like to offer “more comprehensive services” based on the advances made in recent years on how best to care for people with dementia or memory issues.

The overall goal of the new unit would be to both help clients retain as much memory as possible early on, as well as helping them maintain a good quality of life.

“Overall, we want to make sure our facilities and programs are complementary,” Adamowicz said.

The new memory unit would consist of 12 “protective support” beds, he said, and 16 beds of skilled care.

The goal, according to Adamowicz, is for Piper Shores to receive approval for the contract zone amendment this fall, with construction of the memory unit beginning in the summer or fall of 2015.

In addition, Piper Shores is planning to make “space enhancements” to its current facilities, including upgrades in the dining, arts and wellness centers, as well as to parking facilities and building access.

While Piper Shores would also like to add more independent living units eventually, Adamowicz said, the priority is to get approval for the new memory unit, which would be open and operational sometime in 2016, if the town grants approval.

Adamowicz said he’s not yet sure how much the proposed three-story building on the Piper Shores campus would cost because more “visioning is required.”

During last week’s workshop he told the council that Piper Shores is the highest taxpayer and sixth largest employer in Scarborough and that during the 13 years since the facility first opened it’s had a “remarkably positive impact” in town.

Piper Shores is located off Spurwink Road, near the Higgins Beach community. The entire campus consists of 138 acres, and the facility offers 160 independent living apartments and 40 cottages, along with 40 skilled nursing beds and 20 assisted living beds.

Adamowicz said Piper Shores is so popular that it has a long waiting list and the wait time to move into the facility is about seven years.

Leading off the council comments last week, Councilor Jessica Holbrook said she’s aware there is “huge demand and need” for memory care facilities, but she’s not in favor of the additional independent living units Piper Shores is also looking at.

Councilor Jean Marie Caterina agreed.

“(Memory care) housing is needed. Finding placement in dementia housing these days is next to impossible. I support this idea. I think this is a very good plan.”

Councilor William Donovan was also supportive of the proposed memory care unit and said the town has come “a long way down the road with Piper Shores.” However, he is also not willing to allow any “adverse impact” from an expansion at Piper Shores.

Following the workshop Adamowicz told the Current he was pleased with the discussion and said councilors and Planning Board members provided exactly the kind of feedback he was looking to get.

“I felt the meeting was productive and allowed us to get a sense of what town officials felt about our immediate needs and long-term visioning,” he said.

Proposed new building at Piper Shores in Scarborough would provide a continuum of care for those with memory issues. Courtesy image