USI GWEP Leads Dementia Friendly Community Initiative In Southern Indiana

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According to Dementia Friendly America®, more than 5 million Americans and 15 million caregivers are living with Alzheimer’s disease. The University of Southern Indiana’s Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) is launching an initiative to make southwestern Indiana more dementia friendly.

Two Hoosier cities, Petersburg and Rockport, will be recognized for joining the Dementia Friendly America (DFA) network of communities in an online program on Wednesday, February 24 for the general public and community stakeholders.

Lisa Fournier, Project Coordinator for the GWEP, said the virtual program, Your Community Matters: Let’s Talk about Dementia, is focused on Pike and Spencer counties, but anyone interested in improving lives of people living with dementia is welcome to attend. The free, virtual conference will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Central Time on February 24, and participants can attend all or part of the event. Registration is required: http://bit.ly/YourCommunityMatters.

Interactive sessions will be held on a variety of topics related to dementia and caregiving, including how communities can be dementia friendly, how to become a Dementia Friend, legal and financial planning and advance care planning.

The Alzheimer’s Association and two Area Agencies on Aging (SWIRCA & More and Generations) are collaborating with the USI GWEP for the dementia friendly initiative. Goals are to convene key community leaders and members to understand how they can support the growing number of individuals with dementia and create action plans with specific objectives for their communities to become dementia friendly.

“It is an honor to be a part of this initiative and I am excited to see continued efforts to support members of our communities,” said Linda Wright, Community Transition Supervisor at SWIRCA & More, Area 16 Agency. “We have seen the effect that dementia has on those individuals living with dementia and their loved ones over the years. Being able to be a part of spreading awareness and support so that individuals can remain connected and be included in our communities is vitally important and we are grateful. Having Rockport designated as a Dementia Friendly Community is a result of what happens when a community pulls together to support their friends and neighbors.”

Brenda Hancock, Community Resource Coordinator for Generations, Area 13 Agency, agreed that the designation is a group effort. “Generations is thrilled to be partnering with USI and the city of Petersburg to bring dementia education and awareness to the forefront of this community,” she said. “As someone who worked as a case manager for many years in Pike County, I am proud that Petersburg has been officially designated as a Dementia Friendly Community by Dementia Friendly America. I know that this town is up to the task of making their community a place where people living with dementia and their caregivers can flourish.”

Petersburg and Rockport join Bloomington as the only three cities in Indiana with the DFA designation. There are also three counties/areas that are part of the DFA network: Hamilton County (central Indiana), Lawrence County (Bedford area) and East Central Indiana (12-county area including cities of Richmond and Muncie and the town of Liberty).

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.”

“I am very excited to learn that Petersburg has been given the Dementia Friendly Community designation,” said Petersburg Mayor R.C. Klipsch. “The resources, support and educational information available for families and caregivers will be greatly appreciated. I am sure our community will support this initiative and join together to assist in any way that we can.”

In 2019, USI received a five-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement the GWEP. The dementia friendly effort is just one part of the GWEP, which is also focused on developing a workforce to maximize patient and family engagement and integrating geriatrics into primary care.

To register for the free, online event on February 24, Your Community Matters: Let’s Talk about Dementia, please visit: http://bit.ly/YourCommunityMatters

This project is supported by the University of Southern Indiana’s Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Proud partners are the University of Southern Indiana, Deaconess Clinic, Generations and SWIRCA & More.

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