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Change AGEnts Network Will Spur Transformations in Dementia Caregiving

For Immediate Release
March 25, 2014

Contact: Todd Kluss
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(202) 587-2839

A new coalition of experts known as the Hartford Change AGEnts Initiative Dementia Caregiving Network is now working to achieve improvements in services, supports, and care for persons with dementia and their caregivers.

This is the first of several planned networks within the Hartford Change AGEnts Initiative, which was established in 2013 through a grant from The John A. Hartford Foundation. Headquartered at The Gerontological Society of America, Change AGEnts is a multi-year project designed to create change in the practice environment that will improve the health of older adults, their families, and communities.

"The five million people with dementia in this country currently require more than $200 billion annually in expert care from health professionals and skilled support from hands-on paraprofessional direct care workers," said Corinne Rieder, EdD, executive director of The John A. Hartford Foundation. "This, of course, does not include the staggering costs shouldered by family caregivers."

The co-chairs of the new network are Alan Stevens, PhD, the Centennial Chair in Gerontology at Baylor Scott & White Health and professor at the Texas A&M University Health Science Center; and Nancy Wilson MA, LMSW, of the Baylor College of Medicine and the Houston  VA Center of  Excellence in Health Services Research. The two are responsible for identifying what is currently known about improving the lives of persons with dementia and their caregivers, and putting into motion ambitious plans to ensure that the best care is provided.

"The Hartford Change AGEnts Initiative creates new opportunities to advance dementia caregiving," Stevens said. "It both recognizes the considerable research advances and practice innovations of recent years yet places a clear focus on the critical need for practice change."

He added that, as part of the larger Change AGEnts initiative, the Dementia Caregiving Network will aggressively pursue practice changes to improve the health and well-being of family caregivers.

"The need for practice change is most obvious in healthcare and community support agencies who are in direct contact with family caregivers; however, the number of people involved with and impacted by dementia caregiving will require improved education and training for healthcare workers and changes in federal and state policy," Stevens said.

Joining Stevens and Wilson on the network for its initial phase is a multi-sector interdisciplinary team of six experts in the field of dementia caregiving. This includes Christopher Callahan, MD, of Indiana University; Debra L. Cherry, PhD, of the Alzheimer’s Association, California Southland Chapter; Amy Cotton, MSN, GNP, FNP, FAAN, of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems; Joseph E. Gaugler, PhD, of the University of Minnesota; Lisa Gwyther, MSW, LCSW, of the Duke University School of Medicine; and Katie Maslow of the Institute of Medicine.

The members of this self-directed network will synthesize existing reports and literature in the dementia caregiving field and identify a short list of target areas for change. Once these areas have been chosen, other individuals will be added to the group based on their expertise. Through the network, the members hope to spur innovations in practice, delivery systems, workforce, regulation, and policy, as well as partnerships with organizations or national health care movements.

"The interdisciplinary Hartford Change AGEnts networks are designed to bring together some of the nation’s top experts to identify the best opportunities for widespread change in health care. We aim to connect to broader national efforts and take action that leads to measurable improvements in the care of older Americans," said Rachael Watman, senior program officer for the John A. Hartford Foundation. "We are honored to have Dr. Stevens and Ms. Wilson guide our inaugural network."

Within two years, the network’s members will have identified two to three topics of critical importance to the field of dementia caregiving, and established and executed a plan of action. This will be accomplished with public input and in coordination with other initiatives of the Hartford Foundation, GSA, and federal and private partners.

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The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society — and its 5,500+ members — is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA’s structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational branch, the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

The John A. Hartford Foundation is a private philanthropy working to improve the health of older Americans. After three decades of championing research and education in geriatric medicine, nursing, and social work, today the Foundation pursues opportunities to put geriatrics expertise to work in all health care settings by advancing practice change and innovation, supporting team-based care through interdisciplinary education of all health care providers, supporting policies and regulations that promote better care, and developing and disseminating new evidence-based models that deliver better, more cost-effective health care. The Foundation was established by John A. Hartford in 1929.  Mr. Hartford and his brother, George L. Hartford, both former chief executives of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (the A&P grocery chain), left the bulk of their estates to the Foundation upon their deaths in the 1950s.  Additional information about the Foundation and its programs is available at www.jhartfound.org.

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