During his 40 years in the construction industry, Rich St. Maur built two successful masonry companies and a lucrative second career as a project management consultant.
Those experiences also laid the foundation for his most recent business venture: operating assisted living facilities for Alzheimer’s disease patients.
“I would say that was the leap of a lifetime for me,” said St. Maur, 64, of his transition from working with bricks and mortar to managing senior care centers when he founded the Stratford-based Coordinated Project Solutions LLC in June 2008.
St. Maur first entered the senior care market in 2006 as a project consultant for a national firm. While overseeing the construction of 13 assisted living facilities, St. Maur began considering more than the architectural impact of the units on its residents.
“Many of the caregivers themselves have no real understanding of the synergy between themselves and the residents, and the families of these poor folks suffer horrendously,” he said. “It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes.”
As his contacts in the industry and his interest in caring for this very specific population grew, so did his frustration with the facility owners.
“The more I learned, the more I realized these people don’t know what they’re doing, especially with dementia care,” he said. “You can’t take a caregiver who works in assisted living and turn them into an Alzheimer’s caregiver. It’s an entirely different disease and an entirely different language.”
But stricter employee screenings and specialized training cost more than St. Maur’s superiors were willing to spend. So he decided to go it alone — with the help of a silent partner — and build and operate two of his own cutting-edge assisted living and Alzheimer’s facilities a year.
“That was just three months before it all hit the fan,” he said of the recession that coincided with Coordinated Project Solutions’ launch and made securing financing for new construction nearly impossible.
But rather than give up on his dream project, St. Maur decided to fund it by falling back on his former bread and butter: developing, designing and constructing new townhomes, apartments and professional buildings for private clients and management companies.
“It’s the one faction of real estate that is booming, because mortgages aren’t easy to come by and people are downsizing,” he said. “We get the approval process going, oversee construction, and, once we open, we step away. That’s how we keep ourselves alive and kicking until we can finance these Alzheimer’s and assisted living facilities.”
St. Maur estimates he is about a year off from raising the capital to accomplish that.
Until then, Coordinated Project Solutions is improving elderly and Alzheimer’s care at existing facilities in the Northeast — troubleshooting on building issues and beefing up staff screening and training as operating consultants.
“What we have been able to do is take advantage of the slowness in our industry to meet and build excellent relationships with those both at the cutting edge of finding a cure for the disease as well as those recruiting and training staff,” he said.
One of those relationships is with the Hearthstone Institute in Woburn, Mass., where the institute’s staff provides specialized training in non-pharmacologic approaches for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Providing better care and destigmatizing the disease isn’t just more humane, St. Maur said — it’s the best option we have in dealing with the country’s sixth-leading cause of death going forward.
“The more I learn, the more I shout from the treetops because this problem is so huge,” said St. Maur, who was appointed to the New Jersey Alzheimer’s Disease Study Commission earlier this year and serves as an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association from the state’s 1st Congressional District. “If we don’t get this under control, it will absolutely bankrupt the state, if not the country, in the next 10 years.”
BIZ IN BRIEF
NAME: Coordinated Project Solutions
MANAGING MEMBER: Rich St. Maur
EMPLOYEES: Full-time (2), part-time (8)
2013 REVENUE: $350,000