Memory Care Unit Centerpiece of Proposed Hospital Expansion

Last year, Humboldt General Hospital had to send 12 memory care patients out of area to receive care.

If a proposed expansion to the hospital's skilled nursing facility comes to fruition, however, local families can count on keeping their loved ones close by, with the specialized care they need.

Memory care is a distinct form of long-term skilled nursing that specifically caters to patients with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and other types of progressive impairment.

Memory care units usually provide 24-hour supervised care within a separate wing or floor of a residential facility that is specifically designed to minimize wandering behavior.

Humboldt General Hospital CEO/Administrator Jim Parrish said it's difficult and sad for any family to have to move their loved ones to a different community so they can receive memory care.

That's why the hospital unveiled a proposed plan last summer to expand Harmony Manor to include a 13-bed memory care unit.

"We need to have facilities in place to care for all our patients," said Parrish. "We must do everything we can to provide memory care here in our community; anything else is unacceptable."

Parrish said Alzheimer's disease is one of the most devastating forms of dementia, affecting 5.3 million Americans. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the country overall and the fifth leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older, and the number of people affected by Alzheimer's is projected to double in 10 years, and more than triple to 16 million by 2050.

In Nevada, Parrish said 29,000 people over age 65 were living with Alzheimer's in 2010, a number expected to grow to more than 35,000 by 2020.

"So we know our memory care numbers are going to grow," said Parrish. "As a hospital, we must address that gap in services."

The Humboldt County Hospital District Board of Trustees approved moving ahead with the design phase of the project last year. In addition to the memory care unit, the project would include expansions to the Labor and Delivery, Emergency and Surgery departments of the hospital.

The project would also include more off-street parking as well as a medical office building above the Labor and Delivery department that would focus primarily on the needs of women and children.

Those plans are being drawn up by CTA Architects, the same firm that oversaw the addition of a medical office building to the front of the hospital facility, as well as the more recent remodel and privatization of all acute floor patient rooms.

If the hospital board approves the plans and opts to move forward with the expansion, the first phase of the project would go out to bid by early 2015, with construction beginning later that year.

Two more phases would follow, with all construction seeing completion by the end of 2017.

Parrish said the response from community members has been very positive—even emotional—especially for those who have had to send a beloved family member to a different part of the state or country to receive memory care.

"As we have shared these preliminary plans with our community, our initial thoughts and feelings have been confirmed," said Parrish. "This is something we want as a community because it represents a true need for our elderly population."

Parrish said the hospital will be presenting the proposed project to various service groups, organizations and governmental bodies throughout the coming months.

"We want to make sure we share this project with our community, get their feedback and ideas and continue to create a hospital facility that addresses all our needs," he said.

He added, "We look forward to that effort and to the completion of this much-needed addition."

For more information on Humboldt General Hospital's proposed addition of a memory care unit to the Harmony Manor Skilled Nursing Facility, please call (775) 623-5222, ext. 1123.