Tom Schaffler Jr. and his father Tom Sr. are no strangers to chance. After all, they first got into the business of Alzheimer’s care after Tom Sr. watched a friend go through the painful and frustrating process of trying to find a suitable facility for his ailing father. At the same time, the Schafflers, real estate investors in the southeast United States, had recently added an Alzheimer’s care facility as a “passive investment.” After seeing the struggle up close with their family friend, the father/son duo decided to take a more active approach.
“We came to the conclusion we could do a better job than what was out there, at least in our region,” said Schaffler Jr., vice president of development and operation and co-founder of Clarity Pointe, a growing group of facilities specializing in Alzheimer’s care based in Charleston, S.C. The Schafflers met with a group of scientists and doctors from Vanderbilt University, as well as designers and architects, to design a facility that would not only meet the needs of the people living there, but also provide help for caregivers and family as well.
When it came to the security system that would protect the patients and their families, the Schafflers were no less vigilant; but it was not until the first three facilities were already up and running and security provided locally at each that chance again intervened — in a coffee shop in Destin, Fla.
Joel Jester had just signed on as account executive with Dallas-based integrator Securadyne Systems and was assisting at a school safety trade show in the area. Stopping at a local Panera Bread for coffee, he struck up a conversation with the man ahead of him in line — Tom Sr. When they revealed their respective professions, they quickly realized there might be a mutual benefit and set up a follow-up meeting.
“We thought we could help one another; and I was able to secure a meeting with him before I left Destin,” Jester said. “He introduced me to Tom Jr. and their third party operation life care services. It grew from there.”
From that point on, Schaffler Jr. and Jester would work together to map out a plan for 10 Clarity Pointe facilities throughout the Southeast, beginning with one that was already in the works in Jacksonville, Fla,, which is due to open in August 2015.
In Search of a Better Way
The Clarity Pointe concept had started out architecturally with many experts advising the duo on best practices in the industry. While safety and security had always been one of the top goals, not being security experts themselves, the Schafflers were relying on security companies brought in by the local contractor to propose individualized security systems for each location. After meeting with Jester, Schaffler realized there might be a better way.
“Security is something that has evolved as we evolved as a company,” he said. “After the first three, we were now looking at a new way to do things from both a technical and security standpoint. That is part of our mission, to keep trying to do things better and better as a group as we go along.”
And as one of the key selling points in a facility such as this, safety and security was something Schaffler wanted to be able to highlight to potential residents’ family members, who are often concerned about their loved one wandering outside of a facility. At the same time, the concept behind Clarity Pointe meant that traditional patient wandering systems and locked doors were not the way to go.
“There are other assisted living facilities that have a memory care wing,” Schaffler said. “This is all we do. We are dedicated to dementia and Alzheimer’s care. Our facilities have beautiful courtyards outside and caregivers are committed to giving residents the ability to be part of that environment.
“We needed a strategic partner that understood this and could provide that high level of technology in all of our buildings,” Schaffler added.
This was something Jester and Securadyne understood immediately. The integrator proposed a “hosted” system, which meant that IT and administrative tasks such as software updates and maintenance would be handled by Securadyne instead of Clarity Pointe. “We knew what they were trying to accomplish and we proposed a well-rounded solution that would give them integrated access control with an integrated video management system; and all of their transactions, card reads and alarms on doors would have video associated with it,” Jester said.
The hosted solution, the OnAir system from Brivo Systems LLC, Bethesda, Md., also included a mobile app, so Schaffler would be able to look at any of his facilities from a tablet, smartphone or laptop.
“Our employees need to be focused on our residents,” Schaffler said. “Making the safety and security technology as easy and efficient as possible would give the caregivers peace of mind while allowing them to do their job better. Having it hosted by a group like Securadyne will let them focus on doing their job and not worry about a security system that has gone down.
“This was us as a company looking at what we had already done and reaching into the marketplace to find a provider that could provide a higher level of security. It was a matter of best practices. After meeting with Securadyne, I was sold.”
And with projects either in construction or planned in Louisville, Ky.; Baton Rouge, La.; Charlottesville, Va.; Pensacola, Fla.; Cincinnati, Ohio and throughout south Florida, the footprint for Clarity Pointe also meshed well with Securadyne’s own southeast footprint and branch offices, Jester said.
New Design for Security
With all this planned expansion, conserving costs wherever possible was a must, Schaffler said, and Securadyne was very cognizant of that fact.
“They had a design for a security system in the initial plans I looked at,” Jester recalled. “I tried to work within the design as much as I could, but we did add to the original design.”
The resulting design is efficient and gives the facility extremely good coverage on both the perimeter and the interior, he said. “The type of system I chose to present to them I felt would allow them the flexibility and ease of use to carry forward from facility to facility. In doing the Jacksonville project, we have just about standardized on a design for this particular floor plan. They can adjust it if they develop different facilities and carry it with them wherever they go.”
Standardizing on a security plan will save Clarity Pointe both time and money because it allows them to budget correctly for security going forward, Jester added. “From a developer’s point of view, you want to know with a reasonable degree of certainty what the costs will be for the security system, door hardware, etc. Designing a system that met both their budget and operational needs was in their best interest.”
The backbone of the design is the access control system, Jester said. “Especially in a facility like this, because of the uniqueness of the residents or patients, the access control system allows Clarity Pointe to give residents the freedom to move around the facility, but still keep track of their movements.”
Securadyne worked with architects to marry the security with the design of the building in a very fluid, non-obtrusive way. Designed as a square with wings (which the facility calls neighborhoods), the open plan is all interconnected with the courtyard in the middle to promote a social atmosphere.
“One thing that was important to Clarity Pointe was to give residents as much freedom as possible during daytime hours,” Jester said. “The building design helps staff know where patients are. Perimeter doors are all controlled and residents can’t exit those areas without assistance from staff.”
In addition to the Brivo access control system, there is enough video coverage [from the SmartVue cameras that are integrated into the OnAir product] to be able to see who goes where. All interior cameras — especially those associated with access points — are integrated and a clip of what is recorded is stored on the cloud.
“The Brivo OnAir system was a good choice for them because as they grow it is very scalable; there are a lot of elements that can be added,” Jester said.
“This makes so much more sense from our standpoint,” Schaffler added. “Now we will be able to access all of our buildings moving forward from a single platform.”
Not only that, but it is definitely an upgrade from where they were before, he added. “Security has always been an important factor for Clarity Pointe, but now we do it better and can communicate that to our families. Before, it was just ‘here is the technology and this is how we are going to implement it.’ Securadyne’s commitment to doing what we envisioned from the beginning has been a great experience for us.”