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Healthwatch 16: Dealing with dementia

A program starting this month at the Wright Center for Community Health hopes to help both the patients who suffer from dementia and their families.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — Millions of people in the United States suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease. There's a program starting this month at the Wright Center for Community Health that hopes to help both the patients who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease and their families in our area.

This Lackawanna County story starts in California, at UCLA. Researchers there pioneered an award-winning Alzheimer's and dementia care program.

"Their goal was to open up 10 sites across the country to model exactly what they're doing, to reach out to persons who have memory loss, to keep them home longer, and offer a whole range of services, so families don't have to go it alone," explained Susan Scanland, a geriatric nurse practitioner.

Scanland says the Wright Center for Community Health here in northeastern Pennsylvania has been selected as one of those 10 sites.

The program is now officially available here, this month. It offers patients an individually tailored plan with a designated care coordinator who organizes treatments. It also features a variety of resources for their families and caregivers. Once center workers do an assessment, it must be approved by the patient's primary care doctor.

"We're working with the primary care physician, not competing with them. And we have 90 minutes to evaluate the patient, their lives, how their memory loss is affecting them."

The goal is to keep people as home as long as possible.

"You really do need support at home to do that," Scanland said. "Then there's the person caught driving the wrong way on the road, someone getting lost, someone taking the wrong dose of medication and ending up in the ER, those are the kinds of acute events we try to prevent."

The Wright Center is looking to enroll 150 participants in six months. They're starting with current Wright Center patients, but the program is open to anyone in the community who might need it.

Scanland says she is certain it can help so many around here who struggle.

"This has been a lifelong goal of mine, so I'm so happy to work in a system that supports it."

The clinic will be offered at Wright Center locations in Jermyn, Scranton, and Clarks Summit on various days of the week.

For more information, or to book an appointment, you can call the Wright Center at 570-941-0630.