Senior Behavioral Health Unit Offers Dignity to Patients and Their Families

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“It was a perfect storm in life,” says John Parolin. In late 2019, his father, also John Parolin, was diagnosed with Alzheimer-Dementia.

John Parolin, the elder, driving boat on a sunny day.
John Parolin

Then COVID-19 hit, and on Labor Day 2020, John fell and needed emergency surgery on his hip. He was then moved from independent living with his wife at their retirement community to nursing care.

“COVID protocols found him isolated, with no in-person family visits. Even his wife couldn’t come to see him,” remembers John. “We communicated through windows.” There was a rapid decline in John’s cognition due to his isolation. Doctors recommended hospitalization and a review of his medication protocols.

“I was a member of St. Joseph Hospital’s Board of Directors and part of the team who approved the development of its new Senior Behavioral Health Unit,” says John. “For me, it was a no-brainer to seek to have my father admitted to St. Joseph’s. I knew he’d be expertly taken care of, and it would be nice to have him right in Nashua.” Coincidentally, John was among the first admitted to the new SBHU when it opened in December 2020.

Unfortunately, the discussion turned to end-of-life care. “It’s a difficult decision to make, and it was even harder to make it on my own,” says John. “Dr. Jodi Marshall, the director of the SBHU, was amazing. We did a Zoom call with my four siblings and me. She took the time to answer all of our questions and reassure us that this was a compassionate step to take. I had the support of professionals and my family, which helped ease the path forward.”

“We all know that it’s been unusually challenging to work in health care over the past couple of years. But that was not a factor for the staff who showed true compassion to my grandfather and our family,” notes Joanna Poulin, John’s granddaughter. “The way in which Grandpa’s dignity was consistently upheld was absolutely beautiful. We should all be treated
with dignity.”

“The other day I saw a commercial for St. Joe’s on television,” says John. “It closes with the comment ‘I’ve never worked anywhere where I felt like family.’ When caring for my father,
they brought us into their family — the St. Joe’s family.”

This story was featured in the 2021 Foundation Annual Report; read more.

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