ITHACA, N.Y.—Sometimes, a story starts out with one prevailing premise, and it ends becoming something totally different during the legwork. This was one of those cases.

The initial impetus for the article was an email from a concerned reader:

I just moved a loved one into Brookdale Memory Care. Based on her diagnosis and level of functioning, she fits more in line with the level of care at The Crossings but because it does not have state approval yet it is just sitting there! My loved one is mixed in with more advanced stage Alzheimer and Dementia patients which I think causes a disservice to her. I would be curious if you are able to look into what is holding things up with opening the new facility and how we can help to move things forward with opening up a much needed facility for those individuals who are at the beginning stage of Dementia care?”

Way back in 2016, it was noted that Brookdale was adding a third facility to complement its skilled memory care and assisted living options, a lower-skilled memory care option called “Brookdale Ithaca Crossings” for those in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, but not yet advanced enough to require the need for skilled care. Here we are in 2022, and that facility still has yet to open.

When contacted, a Brookdale spokesperson stated “(w)e currently have an application pending with the NYS Department of Health (DOH), and our teams are following up and responding to any questions the state DOH may have concerning the application process.”

Further on background, the spokesperson stated that they spoke with the unit of Tennessee-based Brookdale responsible for the planning and licensure process for the Crossings in Ithaca. There had been a “slight delay” with the application to NYS DOH due to the COVID pandemic disrupting operations New York. They stressed that Brookdale’s staff are following up and responding to any questions the state DOH may have concerning the application process, and that the skilled care facility (Clare Bridge) addresses the needs of all levels of cognitive issues.

That means 32 beds are still unoccupied, which certainly doesn’t seem to be ideal. The initial concern when putting this article together was that memory care needs in Ithaca are not being met; a check with other local senior care facilities confirmed that Brookdale was basically the only major provider of memory care in the area. When asked to confirm if the wing was unoccupied, Brookdale’s Public Relations Team asked for a phone conversation.

On background with a second Brookdale PR person, they explained that there was no rush to open the new wing because they still had excess capacity in the existing memory care beds. All the Ithaca-area clients were in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s/dementia. Brookdale plans to have the new facility ready soon enough that they’ll be able to host less-advanced cases in the new wing, while keeping the more vulnerable advanced cases that develop in their current rooms.

A statement like this is hard to refute or confirm; trying to obtain patient information to confirm they’re at similar memory care needs is a notoriously long and thorny topic due to concerns over the HIPAA law, which protects sensitive, potentially identifiable information from being released.

That noted, given loyal reader’s initial email, it does appear they have the capacity in their current facility for memory care clients. So there does not appear to be a memory care crisis. There are open beds, and if Brookdale is to be believed, the level of care for those currently-occupied beds is similar enough that loyal reader’s concerns of doing a disservice to her loved one would be allayed.

Of course, that still means you have an empty 23,000 square-foot wing of building, but that’s Brookdale’s cost to bear. With any hope, they’ll have the new wing ready in time to provide the greater spectrum of memory care as it’s needed.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.