The University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Nursing Alumna and Students to Help Make Holyoke a "Dementia Friendly Community"

Nov 29, 2016
Nursing student George Ngugi, Mayor Alex Morse, alumna Rachel Tierney

Holyoke is about to become the next local community to earn the distinction of being a "Dementia Friendly Community" thanks to a charge led by distinguished UMass Amherst College of Nursing alumna Rachel Tierney (1962, 1974G, 1990 PhD). Tierney is working with the Loomis House, The Holyoke Council on Aging, and a number of other partners to bring the city up to the standards set by Dementia Friendly America. On November 29th, Tierney, Mayor Alex Morse, State Representative Aaron Vega, and other partners gave a press conference outlining the plans for the program. 

Inspired by Tierney's own experience of caring for her husband, who suffered from dementia, this new program will make the city safer for others suffering from the same symptoms. 

Holyoke's first responders will soon be prepared to assist dementia patients who have wandered or are having a medical emergency. Trainings for first responders will be conducted by several UMass RN to BS students in early December. The students have developed presentations on how to identify symptoms of dementia and how to best communicate with patients suffering from memory loss. They will present videos of their interviews with a caregiver, a woman with Alzheimer's disease, as well as Rachel Tierney. This project was inspired by the students' course work on vulnerable populations. 

The city will join Westfield and Pittsfield in western Massachusets in their distinction as "Dementia Friendly Communities." In those communities, individuals with dementia can register with police so they can be quickly identified if they wander or become lost. Organizers say eventually they would like to knit together a number of communities in western Massachusetts into a network of "Dementia Friendly Communities." 

O'Connell Care at Home, founded by UMass Nursing alum Fran O'Connell, is also a partner in the initiative. 

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