Kari Elliason knows the nursing industry well.
Over her 25 years in the industry, she’s worked in the Army nurse corps, in hospitals and at assisted living facilities. Sometimes, though, it takes a personal connection to truly understand an industry need.
So when Elliason’s aunt started experiencing dementia, and she couldn’t find a local facility where her loved one could receive care on an intimate scale, she decided to create one herself — well with the support of her husband, Dave; daughter, Taylor, and sister, Lisa Quiggle. The team is starting The Family Residence, a 12-bed memory care facility, which will be located in southern Northfield, near the YMCA off Jefferson Road.
“We were looking for memory care options for her if that comes to be, and we found there was a lack of options here,” she said. “We stumbled on a residential care model, which is prevalent in the cities but doesn’t exist in Northfield. So we thought let’s do this ourselves.”
The residential care model offers traditional assisted living services in a more intimate, smaller-scale setting, meant to feel more like a home. According to The Residential Care Providers Network of Minnesota, the family feeling of these homes make them an excellent choice for memory care, giving clients a comfort level stemming from living in a mental health complex care environment.”
With the Cottage on Forest and the Cottages East and West, Three Links in Northfield offers something similar to the residential care model. The cottages offer the same home-like care setting, but because they’re part of a larger assisted living campus, they don’t qualify under the residential care model.
The Family Residence will offer four private bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, and eight bedrooms that will share two bathrooms. The home will be locked, and fully staffed and secure 24/7. The group plans to have one staff member per every six residents, plus the leadership team of Elliason, her daughter and sister, who are both also nurses.
“Really, truly, the focus is on attention,” Elliason said. “Individualized and customized life enrichment. Most larger facilities have one size fits all for programming and activities. We’re small enough to have staff that can do that on an individual basis.”
Development of The Family Residence is expected to cost over $1 million, including construction of the building, plus a driveway and parking lot.
Over 90 percent of the project will be privately financed, according to Elliason, and her husband, Dave, who will be “handling the numbers.” The developers are asking, though, for loans from Rice County and the city of Northfield Economic Development Authority.
At its Tuesday meeting, the County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a $50,000 loan for the project. County Economic Development Coordinator Kathy Feldbrugge encouraged approval of the loan, noting there is a shortage of memory care beds in Northfield, saying the city could use 26 more beds.
Commissioner Jeff Docken wondered “where the money comes from” in a residential care model. Elliason said the business will be taking private pay clients to start, but will look at Medicaid and elderly and disability waivers going forward.
“It’s sustainable in just the fact that the numbers of people with memory care needs are going to be expanding,” Elliason said in an interview Friday. “The number of people with Alzheimer’s [disease] is expected to grow over 30 percent. We want to be seen as a really positive option.”
Elliason also met with a Northfield EDA loan review sub-committee Thursday and was told by Northfield Economic Development Coordinator Nate Carlson that the sub-committee will recommend the EDA approve a $50,000 loan request. The authority is set to vote on the matter June 28.
“The EDA gets involved when there is a need for gap financing,” Carlson said. “The [sub-committee] found an appropriate use of the funds due to the low risk of the applicant and the demand of the project. It’s the kind of loan the EDA likes to provide, because it helps to leverage private financing.”
Carlson noted that senior living is a potential growth area within Northfield. A new 95-unit assisted living facility is being constructed starting this summer in the northwest corner of town, near Northfield Hospital. The Family Residence, meanwhile, is meant to be an option for those looking for something a little smaller.
“I think there have been a few market studies that have been completed in the city, and they have demonstrated a need for senior care facilities — whether it be memory care of assisted living,” Carlson said. “So [city] staff is certainly interested in assisted living projects with willing developers.”
If the project comes to fruition, Elliason expects the business to operate with 15-17 full- and part-time employees with an estimated payroll of $530,000 annually. She said she hopes to be a good employer and provide “well-meaning jobs” in the community, in addition to providing high-quality care.
“When someone decides to live or work at our facility, we intend to regard them as family,” she said. “I think that reputation is going to stand out in the community.”