TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes unveiled the new Alzheimer's garden and atrium with a ribbon-cutting ceremony today at the Mercer County Geriatric Center.
Hughes cut the ribbon along with Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo, Mercer County Freeholder Pat Colavita, and Mercer County Sheriff Kevin Larkin and residents of the Geriatric Center to open the large enclosed garden and the glass atrium that looks upon it.
"I'm proud to open this beautiful addition today. This is an example of a need we identified, and this new facility really will improve the lives of our residents here," said Hughes. "We hope this will allow those with Alzheimer's and their families a sense of freedom and a bit of comfort. It's a really special addition."
Hughes described it as a new dimension of the facility aimed at allowing greater freedom to patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Residents and officials alike got their first look at the Alzheimer's garden and atrium, built by Martell Construction Co., which features paths and an outdoor gazebo and will soon include benches and flowers. It was designed to allow residents at the facility who suffer from Alzheimer's disease to experience the sights and sounds of the outdoors while remaining in the security of the geriatric center.
"This is something we really have not had here until now, and that is a place where our residents with Alzheimer's disease can go to enjoy the sun on their face and the feeling of being outside on a nice day," Hughes said. "And it is a place they can go without their families having to worry about their loved one getting lost outside."
Construction of the unit cost $487,946 in County funds. The unit also includes extensive security features to ensure Alzheimer's patients are safe while enjoying the garden and sunlit atrium, namely an eight-foot privacy barrier and a state-of-the-art lock system surrounding the garden.
At the groundbreaking for the new facility in July 2007, Hughes said the cost and amenities of the new unit are necessary considering the dangers of Alzheimer's disease. The disease makes many sufferers prone to becoming disoriented, wandering, and possibly getting lost, endangering their lives because they may be unable to care for themselves, according to published reports.
Hughes said with statistics by the national Alzheimer's Association showing the disease is growing more prevalent each year, it is imperative to improve the quality of life and the safety of Alzheimer's residents in the County's care.
The new garden and atrium area, which is directly connected to the geriatric center's 60-bed Alzheimer's unit, will also be a setting for inclusive therapy and socialization therapy services.
Bencivengo thanked the County for improving the Geriatric Center, located on Hamilton Avenue in Hamilton, and said it was important to provide for needy residents. Larkin said the new facility was a compliment to his department's Project Lifesaver program, which outfits Alzheimer's sufferers in Mercer County with tracking bracelets so that they can be located quickly and safely should they become lost.