Friday, August 19, 2022

Penn State Alzheimer education series focuses on caregivers

Providing care and support to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias can often be a difficult and isolating experience. A new education series launching this fall through the Penn State Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing’s Age-Friendly Care, PA initiative will offer practical tools, realistic tips, and community resources for care partners on their caregiving journey.

The “Living with Dementia” four-part series will take place in person on Tuesdays and Wednesdays beginning in August at three convenient locations: Hershey, Mifflintown, and Bellefonte.

Participants can expect an engaging format and open learning environment with useful takeaways from each session and plenty of time to ask questions. The series aims to increase understanding about dementia and its effects, help refine individuals’ caregiving skills, provide ways to develop more effective communication techniques and proactively manage difficult situations, and more. Overall session topics are:

Session 1: Understanding Dementia-Related Brain Changes (Aug. 30/31);

Session 2: Understanding Behaviors as a Form of Communication (Sept. 20/21);

Session 3: Resources for Dementia Caregivers (Oct. 25/26); and

Session 4: Planning for the Future with Dementia (Nov. 15/16).

Primary caregivers and anyone interested in learning more or providing support to someone impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias are encouraged to attend. All events are free of charge and open to the public.

Collaborating on the series with Age-Friendly Care, PA (AFCPA) is the Nese College of Nursing’s Tressa Nese and Helen Diskevich Center of Geriatric Excellence (CGNE) in partnership with the Penn State College of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine.

Educational sessions will be led by Dr. Rollin M. Wright, MPH, MS, associate professor of medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and a dementia care expert with AFCPA; Peg Chabala, dementia education specialist; and Janice Whitaker, M.Ed., BSN, RN, certified dementia practitioner, geriatric nurse, and administrator with CGNE and a member of AFCPA.

A special opportunity during the series will be an optional “Memory Café,” where participant care partners can bring their loved one living with dementia to enjoy activities in a safe, supervised environment while they separately attend the educational sessions.

The café will feature “Opening Minds through Art” (OMA), an intergenerational, evidence-based art program offered specifically for people living with dementia. OMA pairs trained volunteers with each participant in creating no-fail artwork while providing opportunities for social engagement and creative self-expression. Undergraduate nursing students from the Nese College of Nursing will be among the on-site volunteer staff as part of this unique offering, which will help prepare them to work in clinical environments where individuals with dementia are cared for such as acute care, nursing homes, and other settings.

“We designed this multifaceted program to provide a unique opportunity for members of our Central PA communities,” Whitaker explained. “The educational sessions will be presented by educators with dementia care expertise who use dynamic instructional strategies to increase participants’ abilities to care for persons with dementia.”

“The Memory Café option offers a respite opportunity that enables caregivers — who might not otherwise be able to do so — to attend the educational sessions,” she added. “The cafés will also provide a safe and enjoyable intergenerational experience for persons living with dementia.”

More information and registration details are available at Age-Friendly Care, PA. Advance registration is required for both the educational sessions and Memory Café as space is limited.

Age-Friendly Care, PA is a collaboration between the Nese College of Nursing and the Primary Health Network (PHN). The initiative disseminates the 4Ms of Age-Friendly Health Systems – an evidence-based framework to advance best practices to care for older adults that includes four essential elements of high-quality care: “What Matters, Medication, Mind, and Mobility.”

AFCPA’s work is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of the Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program award totaling $750,000 with 0 percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The “Living with Dementia” series also is made possible through support from the Endowment for Tressa Nese and Helen Diskevich Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence and the generosity of the Harry Albertman Geriatrics Endowment at the Penn State College of Medicine.