In Wisconsin alone, more than 120,000 residents have dementia and that number is expected to increase by 8.3 percent by 2025. Dementia, a group of neurocognitive disorders that includes Alzheimer’s disease, typically leads those diagnosed with it to struggle with a loss of independence, diminished quality of life and potential premature death. Research has found, “Dementia caregivers are more likely to experience greater emotional, financial and health complications than other types of caregivers,” according to Dr. Stacy Barnes, Grad ’15, director of the Wisconsin Geriatric Education Center and associate professor of practice. “The impact of the disease on families is substantial.”
Barnes is the principal investigator of a newly funded project called Student Champions: Connecting Dementia Patients and Caregivers to Community Resources, which aims to educate students in nursing, medicine and pharmacy programs about available dementia support services and how to initiate a referral via Direct Connect, an established referral program of the Alzheimer’s Association that is currently underutilized by health care professionals.
“By quickly connecting patients and caregivers with available support services, we hope to lessen the burden on families and support them earlier in the disease process,” Barnes adds. “Our students will learn how to champion this referral process at clinical sites throughout Wisconsin, which in turn will enable us to help a greater number of people in our state.”
The project is supported by a $500,000 grant from the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, which was established by the Medical College of Wisconsin in 2004 to serve as a catalyst for positive change in the health of Wisconsin communities. Marquette is also partnering with Advocate Aurora Health and the Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter on this three-year project.
—Sarah Koziol, Arts ’92