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2nd Kane dementia unit to fill rising need in Allegheny County

| Sunday, June 8, 2014, 11:03 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Bob Klasnick, 75, gives a kiss to his wife, Charlotte, 71, in her room at the Kane Regional Center in Glen Hazel, Friday, June 6, 2014. Mrs. Klasnick is a resident of Allegheny County's first Memory Care Unit at the facility. The couple raised four children while residing in Penn Hills during their 52 years of marriage.

Bob Klasnick visits his wife every day. They roam the halls of the Kane Regional Center in Glen Hazel, Charlotte Klasnick at his side in a wheelchair.

He brings her a root beer each visit, and even though she has not spoken in more than six years, Bob Klasnick can tell his wife enjoys the taste. He says he can tell she recognizes him and is happy.

“I know she's being taken care of,” Klasnick, 75, of Oakmont said of his wife, 70, who has a form of dementia and has lived in the Glen Hazel unit specializing in memory care for more than six years. “They make everything as pleasant as possible for everyone.”

Since the wing at the Glen Hazel center for senior citizens with Alzheimer's, dementia and related memory-loss diseases opened in 2000, its 45 beds are rarely empty, said Dennis Biondo, executive director of the county's Kane Regional Centers. To help fill an increasing demand for care, Allegheny County soon will open a second unit devoted to memory care at the Kane Regional Center in Scott.

The 45-bed unit, a mix of private and semi-private rooms, is awaiting approval from the state Health Department, Biondo said. The formerly vacant wing of the Scott center cost about $1 million to renovate. Biondo does not think the wing will have trouble filling the beds.

“The numbers are so profound,” said Clayton Jacobs, vice president of programs and services for the Alzheimer's Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter. “And the care needs are so high.”

The 2010 census estimated 46,000 of the 210,000 senior citizens living in Allegheny County have dementia, Jacobs said. The number will climb as the county's population grows older. The association predicts the number of seniors in Pennsylvania with memory loss diseases will top 320,000 by 2025, an 18.5 percent increase from the current estimate of 270,000.

At the center in Scott, residents will have access to a garden. Biondo said giving residents the opportunity to do activities they did earlier in life helps manage memory loss. Residents at Glen Hazel, and at Scott once it opens, can fold laundry, set tables and do dishes, Biondo said.

The county partnered with Carnegie Mellon University students and their Technology Consulting in the Community course to design a virtual tour of the facility; it appeared on the center's website last week. The CMU students also developed a “Skype cart,” a computer on a wheeled cart, that will allow family members to participate in doctor consultations and other care decisions remotely through online video conferencing, Biondo said.

Residents at the county's four Kane centers must meet income and financing requirements, Biondo said. Funding for their care comes from state and federal subsidies. Residents may choose to pay for a room privately. The rate is $350 a day.

Jacobs said the units help fill a need for affordable care. Klasnick, who worked as a letter carrier for 35 years, said they are a community asset.

“The community would be lost without them,” he said.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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