Riverside Health Systems announced December 12 the creation of a new position, the Memory Care Navigator, which will offer much-needed assistance to caregivers of people who have been diagnosed with dementia. It is made possible by the generous philanthropy of Steve Spain.
Spain is owner of Spain Commercial Inc., a full-service general contracting company that does construction work for the local healthcare industry. He also has personal experience caring for a loved one with dementia. His father, George Spain, was diagnosed in 2010.
The elder Spain, who worked as an inspector for the Newport News shipyard for more than 35 years, is described by his son as “a country boy who didn’t long for anything.” By all accounts, George Spain was a very bright man. According to his son, the father was great at math, loved crossword puzzles and was a two-handicap golfer. That handicap, according to statistics from the United States Golf Association, placed George Spain above the 95th percentile for American golfers.
Tragically, dementia quickly robbed George Spain of some of those defining qualities. Of their last game of golf together, Steve recounts what could be a metaphor for the overall toll taken by the disease. He says of his father’s final round, “He teed off and the first two holes went great. By the third hole, it was like he couldn’t remember how to swing. And it was really frustrating for him. By the fifth hole, we had to stop.”
“It’s like he was trapped,” says Steve Spain, continuing, “He wouldn’t sleep a lot. He would try to leave at night. We finally had to put him in a facility because he was actually hurting himself.” George Spain passed away in 2012.
Before seeking professional help, Spain and his family tried everything they could to care for their ailing father. “When we got the first diagnosis it wasn’t too bad,” says Spain, “I thought that I could definitely take care of him.”
When his father’s condition began to worsen fast, Spain didn’t know what to do. “Even though I’m in healthcare and we do a lot of healthcare work, I didn’t know who to call,” he says, highlighting the need for help that is felt by many people who find themselves caring for loved ones with dementia.
The new position at Riverside Health Systems, funded by Spain, will exist primarily for the benefit of caregivers. Riverside’s initial press release states that a full-time Memory Care Navigator “is expected to support approximately 50 families a year, helping patients, family members and caregivers cope with the emotional, psychological and physical effects of dementia.”
Riverside Foundation Executive Director Kristen Witt says that the new position fits into categories of care that she calls the Three-Gs: filling the gap, from good to great and, finally, gratitude.
On how the Memory Care Navigator position can help fill the gap, Witt says, “This is providing a service for patients and families that insurance doesn’t cover.” She elaborates, “There aren’t a lot of resources there that are really personalized to [caregivers]. You can go online and read about it, but that doesn’t help in the moment. For a caregiver at home, there’s no website that’s going to give you that roadmap.”
As for good to great, Witt says, “this is providing not just basic care, but the best care. We want to go above and beyond your appointment with your doctor. This is going to change the face of what we can do as far as dementia and Alzheimer’s care.”
About the third G, Witt adds, “This is a way to show gratitude and pay it forward for the patients and families going through this really tough situation.”
It is Riverside’s hope that more people like Steve Spain, who have been through the trying ordeal of caring for a loved one with dementia, will be inspired to give back, not only in thanks of the help they have received but also as a way of ensuring that help is available to others who find themselves in similarly difficult circumstances.
TO THE POINT:
Spain Commercial, Inc.
Address: 322 Freedom Blvd., Unit A, Yorktown, VA 23692
Contact: Steve Spain
Business: General contractor