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Coalition receives grant for Alzheimer’s education

WILLMAR — A local coalition working to help make Kandiyohi County more dementia-capable will increase its presence in upcoming months as it begins implementing a plan of action.

The ACT on Alzheimer’s group recently received a $9,795 grant to build community awareness and education about Alzheimer’s and other forms of age-related dementia.

Word of the grant award was “very good news,” said Andrea Carruthers, co-chairman of the group. “We’re doing foundational work. We’re building a foundation of a better-educated, dementia-friendly community.”

ACT on Alzheimer’s is part of a statewide initiative to prepare Minnesota for a rising tide of older adults with dementia. Participating communities are developing pilot projects that address issues ranging from caregiver support to health care system readiness. The goal is to create models that can be replicated and sustained in communities across the state.

In Kandiyohi County, the focus will be on educating the public, Carruthers said. At a community forum last year to identify issues of greatest local importance, education and awareness emerged as a top priority.

One of the first steps will be to train a core group of volunteers who can then serve as educators, speaking to churches, businesses, service clubs and more.

Organizers hope not only to raise awareness but also to provide facts and increase support for individuals and families living under the shadow of Alzheimer’s.

“I think a very important aspect of this is making every effort to end the stigma,” Carruthers said.

Education is a first step toward connecting people with the right resources and raising the overall level of services, she said.

Another goal will be to develop additional support groups.

According to 2012 estimates, Kandiyohi County is home to 825 older adults with Alzheimer’s or other forms of age-related dementia. Nationally, one in nine Americans over the age of 65 is living with dementia.

One of the things the local coalition learned during the past year is that Alzheimer’s has a wide reach. “We have found in the short time that we have worked with ACT on Alzheimer’s, so many people have approached us and said. ‘It’s a part of my life,’ ” Carruthers said. “Life is a journey and there needs to be someone who walks along on the journey.”

The group has until Dec. 31 to implement projects under the new grant.

“I hope we can do as much as possible by year-end,” Carruthers said.

In order for the effort to be sustainable, more volunteers will be needed, she said. The ACT on Alzheimer’s coalition has a core group of 15 and an overall roster of about 50 but could use additional volunteers to keep the momentum going, she said. “We really welcome more volunteers. It’s all about developing a volunteer force to sustain the effort. This is going to live on. It’s an important topic.”

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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