New Backus Center for Healthy Aging helps with simple, complicated needs

Norwich — Crews at the William W. Backus Hospital recently cleared out a vacant former office space not far from the main entrance to create Hartford Healthcare’s newest Center for Healthy Aging, a resource and referral service for families throughout New London County.

The center, open since mid-June, celebrated a grand opening this past Wednesday, becoming the 11th such facility in the Hartford Healthcare system throughout the state. The center is located down a hallway to the left of the main lobby and is handicapped-accessible.

Kristine Johnson, resource coordinator at the Backus Center for Healthy Aging, said the center has resources to assist families with everything from information on a wide range of services available to aging family members based on levels of need, to home visits and assessments of conditions and needs for specific families.

The Backus center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but since Johnson is the lone staff person at the moment and often is out in the community, she asked that people try to make appointments by calling her at (860) 425-5823.

Providing families with a comfortable place to start is a key focus, Johnson said. Since aging residents might feel reluctant to allow intrusions into their homes or lifestyles, she stresses that the center’s job is to help provide the appropriate level of service to allow residents to achieve their independence goals.

For some, it might be subtle changes to the home to avoid fall hazards. Others might need a companion level of care, a person assisting with basic home chores and providing company to an independent resident.

Varying levels of assistance for those with medical needs are available, and the center offers resources for family caregivers as well. A new caregivers support group recently started at the Backus Outpatient Care Center on Route 82.

Families’ needs often become complicated when a primary caregiver — husband, wife, son, daughter or other relative — suddenly faces a medical emergency and now also needs help.

“I had a woman who said to me, ‘How can I get treatment, when I have to take care of my husband?’” Johnson said.

An eight-page brochure explaining the Center for Healthy Aging’s services lists nearly two dozen categories of information or service referrals provided, including housing, meals and grocery shopping, transportation assistance, legal issues, finding a doctor, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, insurance and funding options, veterans’ benefits and advanced planning and hospice care.

The center also plans to provide community education in hospitals, skilled care settings, senior centers and libraries.

Support group sessions and education programs can be found on the Backus website at backushospital.org/events.

c.bessette@theday.com

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