Marywood assisted living on Benedictine Health Center campus opens

Duluth News Tribuneby John Lundy

Duluth facility bridges gap between assisted-living and nursing home care

The newest health care facility in Duluth will admit its first residents within the next couple of weeks.benedictine-health-center-assisted-living-ext

Adjoining the Westwood assisted-living facility on the Benedictine Health Center campus, the 44,000-square-foot, $11.8 million building is called Marywood, and it employs a concept that’s new to Duluth, and of growing concern to the nation.

“The idea is to provide about 90 percent of the care that’s currently being provided in a traditional nursing home, but in a more homelike environment,” said Lisa Miskulin, director of housing for the Benedictine Health Center.

Marywood will be a bridge between assisted-living and nursing home care. It won’t offer short-term rehabilitation, as the Benedictine Health Center does, Miskulin said. But it will offer services that are unavailable at Westwood, such as a specialized diet, tube feeding and ceiling lifts installed in each resident’s room to help move people who need the help.

But it’s the “homelike” part that excites the Benedictine staff, she said.

The building is divided into four “small houses,” each designed to hold 12 residents. Each contains a kitchen, a breakfast nook, a spacious dining and living area, a sunroom, a patio, a small den, a washer and dryer and individual rooms along the perimeter. The two houses on the first floor and the two on the second floor each share a spa.

The first-floor small houses are intended for residents with memory issues, Miskulin said.

An exemption had to be obtained from the Minnesota Department of Health so Marywood could have the four home-style kitchens instead of an industrial kitchen, said Jarod Champeaux, marketing director for the Benedictine Health Center.

Each breakfast nook curves away from its kitchen in a semi-oval and is designed to accommodate wheelchairs. The nook will have room for all 12 residents, but it’s no more likely that everyone will eat breakfast at the same time than in any other household.

“If someone wants to wake up at 10 in the morning, we’ll accommodate that,” Miskulin said. “If they prefer to stay up late at night, that’s OK, too.”

Each resident and his or her family members will be asked a series of questions about food preferences, routines, habits and hobbies, she said. The information will be incorporated into that person’s care plan.

“It’s not the typical traditional medical model of care, where in a traditional nursing home, everything is so regimented,” Miskulin said. “That’s what really sets us apart, I feel, from other settings in the community.”

Each house even has a small wine bar, Champeaux noted.

“If your doctor approves you to have a glass of wine, you can,” he said. “It’s accessible like it would be at home,” he said.

Marywood will have a staff of at least 60, said Sharon Bakken, registered nurse manager for the facility.

So far, 31 of the 48 units have been reserved, Miskulin said. The price ranges from $6,000 to $7,800 per month, depending upon the level of care needed. That places it above the cost of assisted-living care but below the cost of nursing home care.

The cost and availability of such care is a growing concern nationwide. The Health and Human Services Department estimates that nearly 70 percent of people who reach age 65 ultimately will need some form of long-term care. And a study released earlier this month from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation determined that the U.S. “is not prepared to meet the housing needs of its aging population.”

Now that the facility is nearly completed, Miskulin expects Marywood to fill up quickly, she said.

“There’s such a need for this kind of care in the community,” Miskulin said.