June Mileo of Laurel is resting a little easier now that her 85-year-old mother lives in the special care unit for Alzheimer's patients at the Bon Secours Extended Care Facility.
"She gets a little more attention on a one-to-one basis," Ms. Mileo said. Her mother lives in the 38-bed special care unit for patients with Alzheimer's and other cognitive disorders.
The special care unit, completed this spring, is one of four new wards at the Ellicott City nursing home, which recently completed a $3.5 million 33,250-square-foot wing that includes 94 beds. The addition nearly doubles the home's capacity to 193 beds.
Bon Secours, the first Howard County nursing home to build beds especially for Alzheimer's patients, is one of a growing number of nursing homes offering a variety of extended care options.
"A community that has lots of options are best suited to meet the needs of an individual person," said Phyllis Madachy, assistant administrator of the county's Office on Aging.
And by offering those services under the same roof, senior citizens with different medical needs "never have to leave the building," said Leslie D. Goldschmidt, executive director at Bon Secours.
The new wing also includes a 25-bed skilled care unit for those who require around-the-clock care or intensive rehabilitative therapy. Of the 25 beds, five are for hospice care and respite care for terminally ill patients or elderly adults whose families may need a break from their care-giving responsibilities. It opened three weeks ago.
A 10-bed assisted living unit for senior citizens who are independent but who may need help with daily tasks such as bathing and dressing is set to open in February.
Bon Secours' expansion comes at a time when the county's elderly population is increasing.
According to the 1990 census, about 16,700 senior citizens live in Howard County, and that number is expected to reach 25,700 by the year 2000.
Of Bon Secours' new units, Ms. Madachy said the assisted living unit is one of the most important.
During the past four years, the number of certified assisted living centers in the county has grown from a handful to more than 30.
"That indicates a desire to stay in a community or in an environment where they can maintain their independence," Ms. Madachy said.
At the opposite extreme, the skilled care unit is for "those patients who need a higher level of care" than what is offered in traditional nursing homes, Mr. Goldschmidt said.
Skilled care patients, for example, are fed through tubes, have serious skin disorders that require special equipment, or need intensive rehabilitative therapy for strokes and other health problems. Beds for hospice care and respite care are part of the skilled care unit.
So far, 36 residents call the special care unit home. An Ellicott City psychiatrist and an Alzheimer's specialist from Johns Hopkins Hospital visit patients regularly.
For recreation, residents spend time in the courtyard, dance to music, or do hand and arm exercises.
"I like it very much," Ms. Mileo said of the unit where her mother lives. "She seems happier."