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Memorial Receives Federal Grant to Support Dementia Capable Programs

November 30, 2020

Megan Penny
Communications & Development Manager

NORTH CONWAY, NH – Mt. Washington Valley organizations will soon be able to offer older adults with dementia and their caregivers additional evidence-based programs and services over the next few years.

Memorial Hospital received a three-year grant from Administration for Community Living (ACL) that will support Valley agencies assisting residents and their families living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Partners in this effort include MaineHealth Partnership for Healthy Aging, Mount Washington Valley Adult Day Center, The Gibson Center for Senior Services, and Visiting Nurse Home Care & Hospice of Carroll County.

Memorial Hospital President Art Mathisen says the grant is “a huge win for the community,” strengthening the partnership of these community agencies and others. “I am thrilled that the Administration for Community Living has recognized the good work these and other organizations in our community are doing to help those in our community affected by dementia and continue to improve the health and quality of life of people who live and work here.”

The goal, according to the grant application, is to become a dementia-friendly community where people with memory loss and their caregivers and families have resources, education and support while experiencing the best quality of life possible. The organizations note that a dementia-friendly community touches everyone and involves a community effort, making all the places where people live, socialize, work and play supportive, enjoyable and pleasant for anyone impacted by a memory loss.

The ACL, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded twelve grants nationwide as part of its state and community Alzheimer's Disease Programs Initiative which supports home and community-based care. Grants were awarded to communities considered leaders in the field and have demonstrating collaboration by working together to be age-friendly communities. The $988,000 grant will be spent over three years. The purpose of the grant is not to underwrite operations. Instead, the grant will fund new projects and services to benefit the community.

The objective of these new programs is to reduce caregiver burden, help caregivers learn how to manage behavioral symptoms of those with dementia, help people living alone with dementia to live at the highest level of independence, connect individuals with moderate to severe dementia to support services, and focus on strengths and maintaining sense of purpose for individuals with dementia and caregivers.

Organizers say the grant provides critical support for Mount Washington Valley as it faces the challenges of an aging population. One in ten people over age 65 nationwide is currently afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. The rate in Mount Washington Valley is significantly higher at 14.5%. New Hampshire has one of the highest expected Alzheimer’s disease growth rates in the Northeast in the next ten years. Caregiver burden in Carroll County has been found to be higher than elsewhere in the state due to the lack of infrastructure from extended families.

Sue Ruka, RN, PhD is Memorial Hospital Grant Project Manager and Director of the MWV Adult Day Center. She explains that “The grant will help improve our ability to identify those in the earliest stages of dementia, helping people get support and services to remain as healthy and productive as possible for as long as possible. Later as the disease progresses, they’ll receive services and support they need to remain at home. Caregivers often experience negative physical, emotional, social impact on their health and well-being. We hope having the tools and support early on will help mitigate some of that impact.”

Ruka adds, “It’s an honor for a small community to receive something of this magnitude and recognize the work we have been doing to support aging in place. It is visionary and gives us the opportunity to add programs and support services that we never thought possible. This goes well beyond the traditional services expected.”

The Gibson Center brings experience in having begun an Age-Friendly Community Initiative. Dr. Marianne Jackson, president of the Center’s Board of Trustees “is thrilled to be collaborating with Memorial Hospital, Mount Washington Valley Adult Day Center and Visiting Nurses, Home Care & Hospice to bring training, deeper awareness and real support to families who have members with dementia.”

“Dementia affects all of us, not just for the painful loss to the individual but through its toll on caretakers, employers, friends and extended family. There is so much stigma that surrounds dementia and we now have a powerful opportunity to make our community one that is inviting and accommodating for all. We look forward to expanding our programming, education and services in line with our sister organizations to serve our whole community. We are grateful for the leadership of those at Memorial, MaineHealth and the Adult Day Center who have made this possible.”

The grant will fund the expansion of existing programs and the addition of new programs to “fill gaps” in needed programs and services, adds Ruka. “It’s a great opportunity to build on our existing community networks, including not just healthcare providers, but also the business community, libraries, ServiceLink Resource Center, Northern Human Services and other community-based organizations. It is truly a community-wide effort.”

Sandy Ruka, RN, Executive Director of Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice, added “this program will allow us to better serve the needs of our clients through better identification of cognitive impairment for those receiving our palliative care services.” She went on to say “another important aspect is helping people discuss and plan for future needs by making decisions based on their goals of care and determination of what is quality of life. We are honored to be part of the community based team that will work together to allow our citizens to age in place.”

Some of the new services that will be funded include community dementia-specific training and palliative care, other caregiver support programs, additional Music and Memory and Opening Minds through Art program, relief services, care coordination and navigation, community outreach and referral services and more. For more information, contact Sue Ruka at 603-356-4980.


About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, imaging services, cardiopulmonary care, family birthing center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services. Practices include primary care and family medicine, diabetes care, behavioral health, women's health, podiatry, orthopedics and physical therapy. Memorial Hospital is also home to The Merriman House nursing home, which provides senior care services in a comfortable, home-like setting. For more information,  or call 603-356-5461.

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