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Dementia Education Fund Helps Provide Vital Training for Caregivers

Jo Hoyt Freeman Dementia Education and Outreach Fund

As November, which serves as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, comes to an end, recently released statistics reveal an alarming increase in this disease that would suggest the effort to increase awareness should be a year-round endeavor.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and as many as 16 million could have the disease by 2050. The cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias was estimated at $259 billion in 2017, and could balloon to a staggering $1.1 trillion by mid-century.

In Iowa, there are currently 64,000 people, age 65 and older, living with Alzheimer’s disease. That number is expected to jump to 73,000 by the year 2025. One Iowa couple, who was among this large population of residents directly affected by the disease, elected to take this diagnosis and do something about it … something that would provide a positive impact on persons with dementia and caregivers for generations to come. 

When Jo Hoyt Freeman, a former English teacher at Warren Harding Junior High School in Des Moines, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2001, both she and her husband, Claude, made it their mission to share their story. Their goal: Help caregivers find the key to unlock stored memories and bring about joy to persons with dementia.

Mrs. Freeman once said, “If you have a memory loss … maybe you can listen to my story, and it would make a difference.” Since her passing, Mr. Freeman has continued her legacy through the publication of Jo’s Story and the creation of the Jo Hoyt Freeman Dementia Education and Outreach Fund. This fund supports training for care providers participating in a UI College of Nursing training project called “Partnerships to Improve Care and Quality of Life for Persons with Dementia.”

The project involves collaboration with family caregivers and health care providers across the state. The focus is on person-centered care and the importance of providers and family members working as partners to promote quality of care for persons with dementia. The training series targets health care providers, and supports a companion training program for family caregivers. The objective is for both groups to develop skills about partnership-based dementia care that is tailored to the individual’s life-long interests and preferences.

“Our program fits well with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) initiative that focuses on patient and family engagement to improve the quality and safety of health care,” added Jill Colbert, program training coordinator.

Thanks to the Freeman’s vision and commitment to creating a better future for persons with dementia and their caregivers, Partnerships to Improve Care and Quality of Life for Persons with Dementia is a free program. The family-focused training will soon be available online through the Iowa Geriatric Education Center, and the provider-focused training will be released in the spring of 2018.

“We’re seeking feedback and input on the training content from those living through the experience to keep it as real and meaningful as possible,” explained Dr. Marianne Smith, director of the Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence at UI’s College of Nursing, who is overseeing the project. “We’ve learned a great deal from caregivers about the challenges they face, which has been invaluable in helping us develop viable solutions to address those challenges.”

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Posted On: 
Nov 29th, 2017