The University of Southern Indiana campus has officially joined the Dementia Friendly America® (DFA) network of Communities, joining the ranks of other universities nationwide that are leading efforts to be more dementia-friendly.
The USI Community’s designation is part of the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP), a five-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition to dementia education, the GWEP is also focused on developing a workforce to maximize patient and family engagement and integrate geriatrics into primary care.
“According to Dementia Friendly America®, more than 5 million Americans and 15 million caregivers are living with Alzheimer’s disease, so most of us have been impacted personally,” said Lisa Fournier, GWEP Project Coordinator. “We look forward to working with stakeholders at USI and on the west side of Evansville to create an environment in that reduces stigma and improves understanding of the social and environmental challenges of those living with dementia, including caregivers.”
Earlier this year, the GWEP spearheaded efforts for two cities in southern Indiana – Petersburg and Rockport – to join the DFA network. These communities, in partnership with the USI GWEP, recognized National Family Caregivers Month in November with a series of free workshops on a variety of topics, including dementia awareness, healthy eating, storytelling and community resources. Recordings of the sessions are at USI.edu/caregiversmonth.
Fournier and her team are hopeful the efforts underway at USI will eventually spread so that the wider community can also work toward being dementia-friendly.
“The USI Dementia Friendly Community initiative is another way to improve the lives of the individuals we serve,” said Dr. Paul Arthur, Assistant Professor and Chair of Occupational Therapy at USI. “We believe the USI Dementia Friendly Community will enhance the well-being of Vanderburgh County residents, which in turn will benefit the residents and caregivers within our community.”
According to Dementia Friendly America, a dementia-friendly community is “informed, safe and respectful of individuals with the disease, their families and caregivers and provides supportive options that foster quality of life.”
Deaconess Clinic, the Alzheimer’s Association and two Area Agencies on Aging (SWIRCA & More and Generations) are collaborating with the USI GWEP dementia-friendly initiatives across the region.
“Our goal is to engage key community leaders and members to improve the care of people living with dementia,” said Robin Arnold, Clinical Quality Improvement Analyst at Deaconess Clinic and member of the USI GWEP team. “Especially in the area of early diagnosis, there is so much we can do to offer support and education.”
For more information and meeting schedule, visit USI.edu/dfc/usi-community.
FOOTNOTE: This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $3,691,706 million with zero percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.