Healthy Aging

Riverside Creates Memory Care Navigator Position to Serve Caregivers and Patients Living with Dementia

December 14, 2020
Position made possible thanks to generous gift to the Riverside Foundation from Steve Spain in memory of his father.

George SpainNavigating the care for a loved one with dementia can be a daunting and at times an overwhelming journey to embark on.

Thanks to a generous donation by Steve Spain to the Riverside Foundation, Riverside Health System will soon offer a Memory Care Navigator to help caregivers, family members and loved ones walking that path.

“Mr. Spain, with all of his philanthropic heart and generosity, came to us wanting to honor his dad, George Spain, who suffered from dementia,” said Nancy Littlefield, DNP, MSHA, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC, Riverside Executive Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer. “Steve’s experience caring for his Dad was not unique from many others. Family members and loved ones who are care givers want and need support to reach out to, to talk to. This new Memory Care Navigator position will do just that.”

The development of this navigator position, Littlefield said, is grounded in an evidence-based program that the health system implemented through a federal grant at the Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health (CEALH).

The Memory Care Navigator position is inspired by the work of CEALH consultant program, which the grant funding for will end on September 30, 2021.

As a full-time position, the Memory Care Navigator is expected to support approximately 50 families per year, helping patients, family members and caregivers cope with the emotional, psychological and physical effects of dementia.

“When Dad was diagnosed with dementia it was sad,” Spain said. “This was a guy who did crossword puzzles all the time in the paper and was just a really intelligent guy.”

Then it got hard, Spain said.

“Dementia is a really horrible disease,” Spain said. “I thought I could take him in and I could take care of him, but that was difficult. He wouldn’t sleep, and he would try to get out of the house. We ended up having to get a full-time caretaker to help, and all the while we wondered if we were doing all the right things.”

Ultimately, Spain had to move his father into a memory care facility where his Dad could have additional resources to ensure his safety and well-being.

Other goals of the Memory Care Navigator position include expanding personalized care and support by implementing initial and follow up in-home visits, or via telehealth if circumstances require, with the goal of minimizing stress for caregivers who are supporting a loved one with this chronic disease.

“Even with all the health care that I’m around, I didn’t know who to call or where to go,” said Spain. His commercial contracting business – Spain Commercial, Inc. – builds health care and lifelong health facilities throughout the region.

The position will launch first on the Peninsula and ideally will garner additional interest from other donors to help expand the program.

When Spain heard about the opportunity to help fund a Memory Care Navigator position he said he immediately thought “if I had had somebody like that who I could call, that would have really helped me.”

“The navigator position is such a positive thing,” Spain said. “I'm just hoping that this will help families and their loved ones along their journey. We have been so blessed and we want to bless others. Riverside does so much for our community and I'm honored to help out with such a great cause like this.”

At the Riverside Foundation, “we say there are three reasons we raise money,” said Executive Director Kristen Witt. “We fill the gaps between what insurance covers and what families need; we help our health system go from good to great by using donations to recruit the best doctors, build the best facilities and provide the best treatment; and we provide a tangible way for people to show their gratitude for the care and support they’ve received.”

The gift from the Spain family, Witt said, fits squarely into all three important reasons for giving.

“Mr. Spain sets an amazing example not just for his family and his company, but also for this entire community,” Witt said. “He's a leader in so many ways. We are really grateful.”

Published: December 14, 2020