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CNHP Collaboration Spotlighting Caregivers' Needs Announced

November 2, 2020

The value of family caregiving is underscored during November as we observe National Alzheimer’s Disease and National Caregiver’s Month. A new collaboration between Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions and the Public Health Center of Excellence on Dementia Caregiving (PHCOE-DC) at the University of Minnesota will extend the spotlight and help support unpaid individuals who care for people living with dementia. Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, the College’s dean and executive director of the AgeWell Collaboratory, will serve on the PHCOE-DC’s executive committee. This initiative involves key national stakeholders.

Two older people looking out a window. Courtesy of U of M School of Public Health to establish the Public Health Center of Excellence on Dementia CaregivingOf relevance to this initiative is that Gitlin’s research has focused on developing, testing and implementing nonpharmacologic interventions to support family caregivers and improve quality of life of people living with dementia. “We know that these strategies are effective in helping families live with quality of life and mitigate some of the challenging clinical symptoms of dementia including common behavioral symptoms as well as caregiver distress,” said Gitlin. “The estimated economic value of the help family caregivers provide is an astronomical $244B. Not nearly enough is being done to make sure families have even the basic tools and minimum resources,” she continued. “With COVID-19, the issue is even more pressing for families juggling work, caring for a relative with dementia and other responsibilities. Importantly, African American families are disproportionately affected in every which way: higher rates of dementia, less access to diagnosis and formal supports.” This initiative is designed to build awareness and develop culturally meaningful messaging about evidence-based programs and importance of taking care of oneself as a caregiver among other of its activities.

Specifically, PHCOE-DC hopes to make significant contributions in support of caregivers and to the field of aging and dementia care through dissemination of research findings and best practices. Through the body of her research, the AgeWell Collaboratory’s relationships with the more than 70 community-based agencies and many healthcare partners who serve older adults, Gitlin is in an ideal position to help Joseph Gaulgler, PhD, the director of the new center and speaker at CNHP’s Fall Institute on Implementation Science, help move that needle forward.

Gitlin explained. “I’m excited to be a member or the Public Health Center of Excellence on Dementia Caregiving and to work with Gaugler in this capacity in support of our shared goals,” she added. Centers of excellence like PHCOE-DC and the College on Nursing and Health Professions’ AgeWell Collaboratory are working to disrupt the traditional approach towards caring for older adults. They and their many organizational partners are paving the way for new, proven strategies that improve healthy aging across the lifespan and support any person stepping into the essential role of caregiver.

Written by Roberta S. Perry