Handmaker, TMC to build $4.5 million dementia care center

Art Martin, CEO of Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging, at the press conference announcing a $4.5 million dementia care center Handmaker wil build with Tucson Medical Center. The new facility will be located on the Handmaker campus.

Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging and Tucson Medical Center announced Wednesday that they have received a $3 million challenge grant to create a center for dementia care.

Handmaker, a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, secured the $3 million grant from the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation of San Francisco, with the proviso that Handmaker raise an additional $1.5 million to build the facility.

The freestanding 40-bed facility, which will be built on the Handmaker campus at 2221 N. Rosemont Blvd., will include a 20-bed unit managed by TMC for short-term dementia, Alzheimer’s and geriatric psychiatric care, and a 20-bed skilled nursing unit operated by Handmaker.

At a press conference at TMC on Wednesday, Judy Rich, president and CEO of TMC, said the new center focuses on a critical need in Tucson, where the aging population puts increasing demands on the health care system. One in four Arizona residents will be 65 or older by the year 2020, according to a 2004 state report.

Currently, there is no facility in Tucson dedicated to geriatric psychiatric care, said Rich, so the new center will help fill “a big gap.”

The short-term care unit, she explained, will provide an environment that can better address patients’ psychiatric needs than an acute-care hospital setting, which is more attuned to patients’ medical needs, adding that costs in the new facility will also be lower than they would be in an acute-care unit at TMC.

The TMC portion of the project is designed for people experiencing severe breaks in behavior or other psychiatric symptoms, Handmaker CEO Art Martin told the AJP. “It’s designed to sort their problems out, find any underlying medical conditions and hopefully return them to the setting that they came from.”

Handmaker’s skilled nursing unit, said Martin, “will be a cutting-edge residential section for the care of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.” The architect for the project is working on the latest in design for such patients, he said, explaining that one element involves dementia patients’ smaller field of vision. “There are certain visual cues that can either comfort a patient with dementia, or actually agitate them.”

Patients at Handmaker’s current memory-care unit will be moved to the new facility, said Martin. “The new unit’s going to be several beds bigger, so we’ll be able to take in more people,” he added.

Handmaker’s grant submission came about because of Hirsch Handmaker and Handmaker campaign chair Lowell Rothschild’s friendship with Lou Giraudo, president of the Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation, said Donna Levy, a local fund development consultant. Hirsch Handmaker, a physician in Phoenix, is the son of Murf and Mae Bloom Handmaker, who helped found the original Handmaker Home for the Aged, which opened its doors in 1963. He and his sister, Tucsonan Sara Block, were among the 50 people at the press conference.

Paul Kalmanovitz was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, Giraudo explained at the press conference. Kalmanovitz and his wife, Lydia, acquired real estate interests and brewing companies, and having no children, donated to colleges, universities and hospitals throughout their lives, a tradition that is continued by the Kalmano­vitz Charitable Foundation.

No date for a groundbreaking has been set. Levy, who noted that Handmaker recently completed a $2 million capital campaign co-chaired by Lowell and Jonathan Rothschild, said she anticipates completing the new $1.5 million capital campaign in less than a year. The funds, said Levy, will also support other Handmaker programs, including increased short-term rehabilitation and adult day care, “which will make a difference for the total adult community.”