First VA Dementia Friendly Hospital Here in Madison - William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
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William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital


First VA Dementia Friendly Hospital Here in Madison

November 27, 2017

Madison, WI – Dane County and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recognized the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital as the first VA “Dementia Friendly Hospital” at a formal ceremony today.

This recognition is the result of a hospital wide effort that includes additional training for hospital staff and volunteers, in addition to signage changes that make it easier for patients to navigate the hospital.

The hospital was presented a certificate of recognition by Kristen Felten, Dementia Specialist, Office on Aging, State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

The infrastructure improvements fall in line with VA-wide efforts to modernize the VA system, adopting the principle of Customer-Obsessed Innovation, putting the needs and interests of Veterans first, and empowering Veterans through simple, easy-to-use and easy-to understand systems. Other VA hospitals are working to implement similar practices.


“The training and environment changes are part of our commitment to ensure our Veterans, and all visitors to our hospital with cognitive challenges, feel welcomed and safe,” said John Rohrer, Director of the Madison VA hospital. “If these changes make it easier for even one Veteran, than all of our efforts were worth it.”

The recognition is especially timely as November is National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness month.

“This process has taken 3 different dedicated teams approximately 20 months,” said Dr. Mary Wyman, Clinical Psychologist and chair of the Dementia Friendly Task Force Committee. “I think this is really the beginning in many ways.”

Already a leader in Geriatric care, the Madison VA is one of only 20 VA hospitals that support a Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC), exemplifying the VA Modernization principle of being Built to Compete: anticipating needs, acting on them and advocating in the best interest of Veterans, their families and taxpayers.

“We know from years of work that care of patients is not just diagnosing them and giving them some guidance about how to manage their disease, but actually to make the whole environment friendly so that their care can be enhanced,” said Dr. Sanjay Asthana, Medical Director of the Madison VA GRECC.

            Community Collaboration is one of the criteria required for recognition and the hospital worked closely with Dane County on these improvements.

Dane County has supported the integration of the Dementia Friendly model with numerous local businesses and organizations.

“Becoming Dementia Friendly helps people recognize signs of dementia and respond in an appropriate manner,” said Joseph Parisi, Dane County Executive. “With this practical knowledge, we can all be part of creating a safe and welcoming place for everyone in our community.”

To date, 498 clinical and frontline staff at the Madison VA have received training in the early recognition of, and effective response to, Veterans with cognitive challenges.

The hospital’s 8 clinics and elevators will all receive new names and signage.

The new names are: Clinic A – Lake Clinic, Clinic B – Bluffs Clinic, Clinic C – Cabin Clinic, Clinic D – Lighthouse Clinic, Clinics E and F – Forest Clinic, Clinic G – Field Clinic, Clinic 6a – River Clinic and B4051 will now be called Heart Testing.

The elevators will now be named Star Elevators formerly known as Clinic Elevators and Eagle Elevators, formerly known as the Central Elevators.

Patients at the clinics will also see art on the walls that corresponds with the name of the clinic.

"I've been updating the artwork in our facility with photographs of nature from the Midwest," said Tracie Dunham, the interior designer at the Madison VA. "I worked closely with the committee to find pictures from Wisconsin and northern Illinois that helped reinforce the new naming convention."


Tours of the Field Clinic, River Clinic and Heart Testing Clinic were provided following the ceremony.

The criteria for recognition was developed collaboratively by the Dane County Dementia Care Specialist Joy Schmidt and Felten and has not yet been identified as a certification.                     

The 6 criteria required to be recognized as a Dementia Friendly Hospital are: Support from Management, Dementia Friendly Champions, Training of Clinical Direct Care staff, Training of Front Line Non-clinical staff, Environmental Improvements, and Community Collaboration.


For more information about the Madison VA Hospital, visit or