Creating Homes for a Special Population

FitzVogt helps design assisted living communities for seniors with Alzheimer’s.

FitzVogt’s memory care program will provide personalized
meal assistance for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

WOBURN, Mass.—Regional foodservice provider FitzVogt & Associates is partnering with a developer of assisted living facilities for seniors in Massachusetts on the design and management of several residential communities specifically designed for those with memory loss from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“These days, skilled nursing facilities with dedicated Alzheimer’s units are in desperate need of more beds,” says Dave Errico, president of Monarch Homes, the company created by building developer The Maggiore Cos. to construct assisted living units. “It’s one of the fastest growing segments in healthcare.”

Monarch is planning to erect several such communities along the Route 128 corridor of eastern Massachusetts, each of which will have from 35 to 52 beds. The first is scheduled to open this month in Woburn, at the same time groundbreaking begins on the second, to be located in Weymouth, Mass.

FitzVogt was brought in to handle the foodservice design work because of its focus on senior living.

“FitzVogt has a long history of serving seniors, and I knew they could help us design a program that really met the needs of folks with memory loss,” says Errico.

Lengthy process: The process started three years ago, according to Todd Lindsay, director of business development for FitzVogt. “We were trying to figure the best way to provide quality, wholesome healthy foods in the best manner possible for this type of population,” says Lindsay.

What FitzVogt designed is an innovative food program that will center around what Lindsay calls “neighborhood dining.” Residents will eat all their meals in one of two dining rooms, in a home-style community environment, rather than being fed off trays in their rooms.

“From a food standpoint, that’s significant,” says Lindsay. “The community dining experience is a really important measure of care of Alzheimer’s and dementia residents.”

Coordinating that type of meal delivery took a lot of planning and some innovative thinking between the two companies, he adds.

“The concept evolved through a lot of discussion and a lot of ‘what ifs’ and ‘how can we,’” says Lindsay. “We challenged each other to find the best model.”

The model includes an on-site kitchen where meals will be prepared, then staged onto a food cart and transported to one of two pantries, each of which is located just a few feet away from a dining room. In the pantry, the food will be plated for residents and brought to the tables, where home health aides will assist residents as needed.

The pantry serves a key function, according to Lindsay. “As residents enter the dining room to be seated, they’ll be greeted by the aromas of fresh coffee, muffins and other familiar smells,” he explains. “This is important to those with memory loss, as it helps them understand that this is going to be a food experience.”

Local effort: Monarch and FitzVogt developed the system with the help of Boston Showcase Co., a food service equipment and engineering company. Gary Strickland, vice president of Boston Showcase, became involved early on and helped bring it to fruition.

“They took our designs, sourced the proper equipment and made it all fit together,” says Lindsay. “They’re giving us the kitchen that we have to have to deliver meals to this population in this way.”

That design process was easier than a renovation or an addition because it is new construction, according to Lindsay.

“These communities are being built from the ground up specifically for Alzheimer’s and dementia care,” he says. “That makes it easier for us to do something innovative.”

Given the increase in the overall aging of the U.S. population, Lindsay believes there is a real need for this kind of construction.

“I think this is the right opportunity at the right time for Monarch Homes,” he says. “Staff training, interior layout, activities and menus have all been professionally designed to provide the best possible care for those with Alzheimer’s. It’s very timely that they are doing this at this junction.”

FitzVogt, led by President Mark Fortino, has been providing foodservice to senior residences, schools, corporations and other clients throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic for more than 30 years.

“It was really an honor to be brought in to help guide a project of this nature,” says Fortino. “Not only is it part of what we do, but it is so necessary—not just here in New England but all over the country.”

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