A new day care center for Alzheimer's disease patients opening soon is a reminder of the high costs associated with caring for someone with dementia and the scarcity of of high-quality services.
Alice's Clubhouse, opening this fall on Bowman Road in Mount Pleasant, will be for adults with Alzheimer's. It is private-pay only. Its organizers say it will be the first of its kind in the state, offering medical care, tailored activities and high-quality food all bundled into one service.
Bright ideas are welcome as the number of patients climbs and the population grows older.
But Alice's Clubhouse's entrance into the market of services that care for people with Alzheimer's or another dementia could be a sign of new solutions to caring for people with the memory-robbing affliction.
The disease will cost the nation $277 billion this year and could exceed $1 trillion by 2050, the Alzheimer's Association predicts. And in South Carolina, the demand for services will be especially high: the state had the second-highest rate of deaths from Alzheimer's in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not many options are available for people with mild to moderate dementia, said Taylor Wilson, director of communications for the state’s chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
And what is out there is often cost-prohibitive, Wilson said.
"This disease has a tendency to walk people back into poverty," she said. "The costs are so extreme."
The median cost of a home health aide is $22 per hour, according to the Alzheimer's Association. For adult day care centers, the median price is $70 per day. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities will cost even more. Costs for caring for people with dementia or cognitive decline are only increasing.
South Carolina is also one of the states worst-equipped to deal with the mounting problem, researchers from Rand Corp. determined last year.
The Alice's Clubhouse team says it will be the first day care center of its kind in the state.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control regulates Alzheimer's care facilities. Most are nursing homes or assisted-living groups. But there are at least a half dozen adult day care sites in Charleston and nearby counties, according to information from DHEC.
The centers have varying payment models and missions. Some focus more on adults with intellectual disabilities such as autism or Down's Syndrome.
Many of the other day cares can't take patients for the entire day, said Elizabeth Ford, program manager for the S.C. Office on Aging Alzheimer's Resource Coordination Center.
But care for people with Alzheimer's in general is expensive, she said. Alice's Clubhouse isn't the only provider that doesn't accept government payments. Home health agencies don't take Medicare, Ford said.
"We’re really not going to be able to afford it," she said. "Most people can’t afford long-term, full-time help."
Diane Sancho, a 30-year veteran in aging services and executive director of Alice's Clubhouse, thinks her day care will differ by offering tailored care for every client, and each will be assessed when they first arrive. She says Alice's Clubhouse will feature art therapy, horticulture, baking, music, word games and guest lecturers depending on the member's interest. The center will also boast a "white linen" lunch.
David AvRutick, president of Alice's Clubhouse, declined to say how much the day care center will cost. As a private pay facility, it won't accept Medicare or Medicaid.
"What you're getting when you break it down, from an hourly basis, is way more cost-effective than any other option," he said.
AvRutick, whose mother has Alzheimer's, said he will begin looking at expanding Alice's Clubhouse to new locations as soon as he can.
Wilson said the concept — to give people with Alzheimer's cognitive stimulation and companionship — is becoming more widely accepted.
"The research is beginning to prove that it makes a difference," she said.
The Alzheimer's Association also gives the state money to disperse for respite care, or relief services for the patient's usual caretaker. Those funds, about $900,000 per year, are given out through the state's regional offices on aging. How much each person receives is decided based on their need.