Kivel Campus of Care dedicated its new memory-care unit on Nov. 29, making the Phoenix senior-living community the first in the country to use the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Assisted Living Conversion Program (ALCP) to create a facility specifically for assisted-living residents with Alzheimer's disease, dementia and other memory problems.

It is scheduled to open on Dec. 10.

"This is so needed," Joan Zecherle, faith community liaison of Hospice of the Valley, said during the dedication ceremony. She described the new facility as "quite elegant and homey at the same time."

According to Hospice of the Valley, Alzheimer's disease is one of more than 50 types of dementia and accounts for 50 to 80 percent of all dementia cases. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and more than 5.4 million Americans are affected.

Before Kivel received the grant, residents had to leave Kivel if they started showing signs of dementia because Kivel didn't have the capability to properly care for them, said Ira Shulman, Kivel president and CEO.

Now "people who love where they live can stay where they are," said Stephanie Smelnick, HUD director of the Phoenix Multifamily Program Center, at the dedication. Smelnick, who worked with Kivel on the project, confirmed that it is the first memory-care unit in Arizona that was built on a HUD property with ALCP funding.

New staff will be added, according to Shulman, including an activity specialist and caregivers to cover all three shifts. Additionally, all assisted-living staff will receive special training "so they can better understand the unique needs of memory-care residents."

Some features of the new facility include an indoor walking pathway; a wanderer's garden; memory boxes outside each apartment where residents can keep mementos to help identify which room is theirs; an activity kitchen; an activities and relaxation room that includes magazines, board games and a computer; a beauty parlor; and a large living room with couches and chairs where residents can gather to watch TV or visit with others.

Residents eat in a dining area; the kosher food is from Kivel's main kitchen and is supervised by the Greater Phoenix Vaad Hakashruth. Each resident has a private apartment that includes a refrigerator, a microwave, a sink and a bathroom.

The project was designed by Lizard Rock Design and constructed by Summit Builders. LouAnn Holec did the interior design.

Funding for the memory-care unit comes from a $3.9 million grant that Kivel received from HUD in 2010. The grant was used to modify 15 apartments on the first floor of the assisted-living facility into the memory-care unit and to add 15 assisted-living apartments on an upper floor. Kivel now has a total of 45 beds for assisted living and 210 independent apartments.

Kivel was only one of five recipients in the nation that was awarded an ALCP grant in 2010, according to an Aug. 6, 2010 article in Jewish News. That year, Kivel also received a $4 million grant from HUD as part of the Green Retrofit Program for Multifamily Housing under the American Recovery and Reimbursement Act of 2009. The "green" grant was used to renovate the whole campus, according to Shulman.

Kivel is located at 3020 N. 36th St., Phoenix. To learn more about the memory-care unit, contact Rita Console, 602-443-8039.