Navigating Memory Care

“Sun Health is paying attention and responding to the needs of the community.”

Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator program provides a needed service to area residents 

When Shirley Frizell began noticing a few years ago that her husband, Bill, was experiencing memory-related issues, one of her first instincts was to contact Sun Health’s Memory Care Navigator program for guidance.

Shirley, a Sun City West resident, says doing so was the best move she ever could have made.

“It is a great service, and it is offered at no cost to the community,” says Frizell, who is on the Sun Health Foundation Board of Trustees.  “It is so needed by people out there like me.”

The Memory Care Navigator program, which debuted in 2013, is funded solely by donations to Sun Health Foundation.  Thus far, there have been more than 800 requests for assistance.  Amazingly, the program is currently composed of just one staff member, Marty Finley, M.Ed., who, during her initial assessment of clients, helps them and their families “navigate” the new path their lives have taken, offering resources, tips and plenty of support.

“Consultations are typically me sitting with the family in their home, listening and asking questions, “Finley says.  “I develop what I all an action plan, and I give them ‘homework’ assignments.  I get to help them and be someone they know they can count on.  They know they can call me tomorrow or two years from now, and they do.”

Frizell says during her first meeting with Finley, whom she calls “an angel,” she learned what she needed to do to protect Bill and herself legally and in health-related matters.

Finley’s homework recommendations for the Frizells included obtaining a Medical Alert Safe Return bracelet for Bill—in case he should wander and be unable to find his way home—and that Shirley attend a class on self-care skills for caregivers.

As a result, Frizell says she read everything about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease that she could and was determined to find the best possible care for her husband, who moved to a home for memory care patients in January.

“I’ve learned more about memory care issues than I ever wanted to know,” says Frizell, who’s also become something of a spokeswoman for memory care advocacy, having spoken last year at an Alzheimer’s fundraiser.  “Because I was given help from Sun Health, Bill was able to get the help he needed.”

Finley says the Frizells are fortunate because they knew about the Memory Care Navigator program through their involvement with Sun Health, as well as with other local community organizations such as Benevilla.  Finley and Frizell have made it their goal to make sure everyone who could use the Memory Care Navigator program in this area knows about it.

Finley’s caseload has been steadily rising since she started.  With that in mind, Sun Health Foundation and advocates like Frizell are hoping to secure even more funding to expand the program.

“Sun Health is paying attention and responding to the needs of the community,” Finley says.  “If you have to have dementia, you are living in the best place because we are very resource rich in the West Valley.”

To learn more:  SunHealth.org/memorycare or 623-832-9300

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