Dignitaries celebrated the $500,000 donation to fund the Alzheimer’s treatment facility. By Donald WittkowskiIncurable and deadly, Alzheimer’s disease usually kills those who have it in about 10 years, robbing them of their mental acuity along the way.Although a cure has thus far eluded medical science, a new facility opening at Shore Medical Center in Somers Point will offer treatment for Alzheimer’s patients, support for their families and clinical trials of experimental drugs to combat the disease.Shore Medical Center announced plans for the Flora Baker Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Center on Thursday. The facility will be funded by a $500,000 donation from the Ocean City Masonic Lodge No. 171 through an endowment for Alzheimer’s treatment established by the now-deceased Baker, a local businesswoman.During a press conference at the hospital, medical officials said the Alzheimer’s center will be the first of its kind in South Jersey when it opens in several months. They noted that Alzheimer’s patients in this area currently must travel to Philadelphia for treatment.“The Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Center will fill a tremendous need in our region for treatment and support for patients with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones,” said Ron Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Shore Medical Center. “Currently, there is limited availability of providers and knowledge to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and associated disorders.”Ron Johnson, CEO of Shore Medical Center, said the new facility will fill “a tremendous need in our region.”Aging is the biggest factor for developing Alzheimer’s, a fatal disorder that falls under the umbrella group of brain diseases known as dementia. Alzheimer’s is becoming more common now that members of the baby boomer generation have begun slipping into their elderly years, said Dr. David Roeltgen, a neurologist who has been treating the disease for 35 years.Roeltgen, a member of Shore Physicians Group who will head the new Alzheimer’s center, said the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients usually erodes within five years of diagnosis. Death usually comes within eight to 12 years, he pointed out.Hoping to boost the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients, the new center will provide a streamlined approach toward the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Shore Medical Center said patients will benefit from a “continuum of care” involving doctors, family members and professional caregivers.Research will be another major aspect of the Alzheimer’s center. Roeltgen explained that it will include clinical trials of experimental Alzheimer’s drugs. Revenue generated through the drug trials will help finance the center’s operations.Moreover, the center will provide social services and a support network for the families of Alzheimer’s patients. Caring for a loved one with the disease can be an emotional and physical ordeal for the family members, so the Alzheimer’s center will help them avoid “caregiver burnout,” Roeltgen said.David Roeltgen, a neurologist at Shore Physicians Group, will head the Alzheimer’s center.The family component of the Alzheimer’s center was a major factor in the Ocean City Masonic Lodge’s decision to donate the $500,000 to Shore Medical Center to create the facility.“It made our decision to give them this money extremely easy,” said Ed Price, grand chaplain of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey and a former master of the Ocean City Masonic Lodge 171.Price said the Masonic Lodge spent about two years meeting with medical facilities and healthcare providers as part of a vetting process for the Alzheimer’s donation.In the end, Shore Medical Center stood out with its presentation for its Alzheimer’s research and care center, particularly with its plans to also help the families of patients, Price noted.The Masonic Lodge will be part of an Alzheimer’s advisory committee that will also include representatives of the medical field and the surrounding community.The donation to Shore Medical Center was made by the Masonic Lodge in memory of Flora and Benjamin Baker, of Ocean City. Both deceased, the Bakers were local hotel operators and major benefactors of the hospital. Flora Baker established an endowment earmarked for Alzheimer’s treatment in honor of her husband, who was a member of the Ocean City Masons.“If it wasn’t for the Masons and Flora Baker, we wouldn’t be standing here today,” David Hughes, chief financial officer of Shore Medical Center, said during the press conference to announce the new Alzheimer’s center.