Long-time Donor Endows Caregiver Training Course as Aging Population Multiplies

conger-art-caregiving.jpgFormer Foundation for Morristown Medical Center Trustee and donor Bill Conger knows what it’s like to watch a loved one struggle with a chronic disease. His mother endured the slow decline of Alzheimer’s disease for 15 years, as did his grandmother before her. Since then, two of his friends now struggle with the early stages of dementia. As a caretaker for family and friends, when he found out there was an opportunity to help fund a caregiver training series at Morristown Medical Center, he was quick to endow the course in its entirety.

Ranked the best hospital in Geriatrics in New Jersey and high-performing nationally by U.S. News & World Report in their 2021-2022 Best Hospitals rankings, Morristown Medical Center’s geriatric program includes a dedicated Geriatric Emergency Department, Geriatric Assessment Center, and the David and Joan Powell Center for Healthy Aging to attend to our seniors’ most critical needs.

The five-part caregiving course – endowed by Bill Conger – offers a 10-hour interactive curriculum to teach caregivers the critical skills of caring for an aging loved one.  Sessions include demonstrations of hands-on care techniques and small group learning with a home health aide and physical therapist, along with a state-of-the-art geriatric nursing mannequin

“I didn’t know this kind of training existed until Dr. Keerti Sharma gave a presentation at a board meeting last year,” Conger said. “The idea to endow the series sparked my interest.”

The Bill and Nancy Conger Endowment Fund for the Art of Caregiving Bi-Annual Training Series was named to reflect the shared legacy of the 74-year-old and his late wife, Nancy. Before she passed in 2019, the couple had donated to various funds, including pediatrics, oncology, the True North Veteran Support Fund and the Sameth Emergency Department at Morristown Medical Center. Conger has continued his generous support with gifts to help the Patricia A. Kearns Endowment Fund for Women’s Cancer, the COVID-19 Support Fund and the  Carol G. Simon Cancer Center renovation, a part of the Growing Forward Campaign, along with his recent endowment for geriatrics.

As the principal of Red Hook Management Investment Advisors in Morristown, New Jersey, Conger was quick to see the exponential benefits of an endowment for both himself and the hospital. It permanently funds a critical need for Morristown Medical Center while also carving out an honorable legacy for him to leave behind. To establish an endowment at the Foundation for Morristown Medical Center, a donor must give $100,000 or above toward one of the hospital’s funding priorities, such as programs, departments, research initiatives or other patient-centered needs.

“An endowment lives in perpetuity, whereby the principal stays intact while at the same time the program receives income annually to support its mission and viability,” Cynthia O’Donnell, Foundation for Morristown Medica Center director of gift planning, said. “I encourage many of my donors to consider creating endowments because they are easy to set up, and it can make an indelible impact, improving patient outcomes for decades to come.”

The Conger endowment will in fact impact the community for decades.

“One of the fastest-growing demographics in the United States is our senior population,” Foundation for Morristown Medical Center’s Board of Trustee Keerti Sharma, MD, chief of Geriatrics for Morristown Medical Center and program director for the Geriatrics Fellowship, said. “By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65 and 22 percent of Morris County residents are expected to be 65 or older by 2032, according to U.S. Census Bureau reports. We have our work cut out for us, and community support is critical to stay ahead of the curve.”

Bill Conger decided to stay on top of his physical exams after becoming acquainted with these alarming trends often dubbed the silver tsunami.

“Thinking of my health in the bigger picture of my family history of Alzheimer’s disease, I made an appointment with Dr. Sharma,” he said. “I was impressed with her attention to the details of my medical history. At that time, I asked her to become my primary care physician.”

The David and Joan Powell Center for Healthy Aging at Morristown Medical Center offers seniors a complete evaluation of complex physical and psychosocial issues, neurological and cognitive exams, and a full review of medications to help them function independently for as long as possible. With a team of four geriatricians, geriatric-advanced practice nurses, social workers and nurses, the program has maintained “Exemplar” status in its level of geriatric-added nursing care – the highest designation achievable from Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE), a national organization designed to improve the quality of care for older adult patients and their families.

Additional funding needs are crucial to staying ahead of the curve and include a geriatric fellowship, caregiver training center and NICHE annual conference.

To donate, give online or contact Cynthia W. O’Donnell, JD, at 973-593-2418 or cynthia.odonnell@atlantichealth.org.

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