Amarillo VA Health Care System opens new memory care facility for veterans

VIDEO: Amarillo VA Health Care System opens new memory care facility for veterans

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - A new memory care facility opens at Amarillo VA Health Care System for Veterans with Dementia and Alzheimer.

Veterans in the program have been patiently waiting for over two years, when the project was initially launched. First, they had to wait for the construction, and then of course COVID-19 caused some disruptions.

“To be honest with you, I don’t even remember the projected move in date because it got set back too many times,” said Leanna Tijerina, chief nurse of Community Nursing Center at the Amarillo VA Health Care System.

During the pandemic’s peak, COVID-19 regulations prevented them from moving in, and then once the vaccine rolled out, the facility was used as a vaccine clinic.

Now that COVID-19 cases are down, the wait is finally over.

The program is named ‘Welcome Home’ after the home style design it has, compared to the traditional hospital setting.

“Putting them in a new environment that is very sterile very cold, it makes it more confusing for them. So, you want to keep them in a home like environment.”said Tijerina.

She adds home style facilities, like this one, are part of new research that shows people with Dementia and Alzheimer adjust better in home settings.

A study by the San Francisco VA Health Care System that included more than 180 thousand veterans over the age of 55, found that those who had been prisoners of war had about 50 percent greater risk of developing dementia.

Those who had both been POW’s and suffered from PTSD had more than double the risk.

“Their adjustment can be so difficult, especially with PTSD or traumatic brain injury. And with dementia, it is so difficult for them as they go through that dementia process to adjust, not knowing what to, not remember how to eat, it is so frustrating to them,” said Tijerina.

She adds many veterans will live their last days at this facility, which is also why they wanted them to be comfortable.

“For me, as a veteran and for me just as an american, I just think it is important that we take care of our veterans, we take care of those who have served our nation honorably and we give them all we can,” said Dr. Rodney Gonzalez, director at the Amarillo VA Health Care System.

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