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Alzheimer's Program At Soldiers' Home Draws Praise

  The Patrick administration in Massachusetts is taking steps to address the growing problem of senior dementia. A new program at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke is helping veterans and their families cope with Alzheimer’s disease.  WAMC”s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

   Bill McGill of Montgomery said he was stressed out a few years ago, when he realized his father..now 90…had been wondering off and might have Alzheimer’s disease. Having  him live at  the state run Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke has brought peace of mind.

   A collaboration with  the Alzheimer’s  Association of Massachusetts-New Hampshire has led  to the soldier’s home becoming a community resource for  earlier diagnosis, education for families of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients and support for caregivers.

   The partnership started in February with the launch of a statewide plan by the Patrick administration for improving services to Alzheimer’s patients and their families.  Soldier’s Home in Holyoke Superintendent Paul Barabani says they have since begun a dementia screening program in the outpatient department, educational workshops for veterans family members and the community-at-large, and a family support group.

   Programs like the one at soldier’s home are aimed at keeping people out of institutions for as long as possible, according to Jennifer Carter, the manager of public policy for the Alzheimer’s  Association.

   There are 120 , 000 people in Massachusetts who suffer with Alzhiemer’s disease, according to the state’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Judy Ann Bigby, who says the state is looking for innovative ways to help.

   Adult day health programs can cost on average about $80 per day. An institutional bed can cost up to $300 per day.

   Life expectancy is also at an all time high with people in Massachusetts living 2.2 years longer than they did a decade ago.

   Governor Patrick recently signed legislation to establish regulations for dementia care in long term care facilities.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.