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Hosparus Health team nurse Regina Taylor knows just the trick to get dementia patient Dave Sommers to engage—she asks him about competing in the Tour de France.

“He lights up when you ask him about that,” says Regina. The 87-year-old competed in the grueling 23-day event and still says it was “the most amazing ride of his life.”

Step into his room at Traditions at Beaumont and you get the sense that Dave is a man of many accomplishments. There are the Tour de France posters, replicas of the planes he flew, and the medals the U.S. Air Force Major (Ret.) acquired throughout his 20 years of active duty. Although Dave retired in 1976, he can still tell you which each of the medals represents.

“Dave’s dementia has taken away his ability to communicate effectively, but if the topic is something he wants to talk about, it’s like a light switch flips on.”

Through our partnership with the We Honor Veterans program, servicemen like Dave are recognized for their sacrifices. Earlier this spring, Hosparus Health volunteer Hugh Walker, an Army veteran himself, presented Dave with a commemorative certificate and a handmade prayer blanket.

“He reacted with the biggest smile, and then at the end, when Dave returned the salute— that was so amazing,” Regina recalled. “I am so glad we got that on video for the family!”

Dave’s niece Lisa moved him back to Louisville last year when it was clear he could no longer be on his own. “He lived out in California for most of his life; he never married or had kids, so, years ago, he asked me if I could take care of things when the time came. In the meantime, he would mail me copies of important documents and ask me to keep them in a binder. He was extremely organized,”  said Lisa.

That’s why it’s hard for Lisa to see her uncle struggle with the grips of dementia. “In March, he got pneumonia and spent eight days in the hospital. When we transitioned him back to the memory care unit, he declined, which is common with dementia patients. It was frustrating for him and worrisome for me.”

One day, she was having a particularly bad day and stepped out into the hallway. She struck up a conversation with Jennifer Titus, one of the Hosparus chaplains. “She helped me to understand that hospice care can be an extra layer of support, even if your loved one is in a facility.”

In Dave’s case, the Hosparus Health team, which consists of a nurse, social worker, chaplain, nurse practitioner and CNA, worked in tandem with Memory Care Director Dr. Shannon Bland.

Lisa says she feels more at ease now that she an entire team to lean on. “Having that many eyes on Dave on a regular basis is helpful. I don’t feel like I have to be there 24/7.”

“I especially like having a sounding board for when issues arise. For example, I recently got a phone call from the facility that Dave had fallen. He wasn’t bleeding and didn’t appear injured, but I was worried. So, I called Regina to get her opinion. She said she was close and would run by and check on him. She called me right back and let me know everything was ok.”

“I know she trusts me, and that means a lot,” said Regina. “I love that that I get to help families like Dave’s during their most vulnerable times, and in the end, they become extended family.”

From our Hosparus Health family to you, Major Sommers, we salute you!

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