Partnering to Create a Dementia-Inclusive Community

Jennifer Heston-Mullins Photo of Suzanne Kunkel

A Scripps research team led by Jennifer Heston-Mullins and Suzanne Kunkel is engaged in a three-year project funded by the Administration for Community Living to build a dementia-inclusive community in Northwest Ohio. The project is a partnership with MemoryLane Care Services, the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, and the Ohio Council for Cognitive Health; Scripps is providing third-party evaluation of dementia-inclusive efforts in the greater Toledo area. After an initial planning period, project implementation began in September 2019 and the project is scheduled to continue through September 2021. 

This project is unique because it intentionally focuses on the needs of individuals with dementia who live alone and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) with dementia or who are at risk of developing dementia. In addition to establishing a Dementia-Inclusive Community Coalition in Toledo, project partners are using collaborative and innovative frameworks to provide Dementia Friends information sessions and a customized care consultation program to improve quality of life for individuals with dementia and their caregivers in the greater Toledo area.   

Dementia Friends, developed in the United Kingdom, is part of the Dementia Friendly America initiative that is offered in Ohio through the Ohio Council for Cognitive Health. Dementia Friends information sessions provide community members with education about dementia and encourage participants to commit to practical actions that support individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. An unexpected result of the recent COVID-19 outbreak is that project partners are now exploring how to offer Dementia Friends sessions online, since the traditional in-person sessions cannot be held. The online version developed under the auspices of this project will be the first of its kind in the U.S. and could lead to further expansion of the program across the state and across the country.

BRI Care Consultation™ was developed by the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging to help professionals deliver cost-effective assistance and support to individuals living with chronic conditions and family caregivers by telephone and email. The program has been customized for this project to address the unique needs of people with dementia who live alone or with IDD, and their caregivers. The assistance and support provided by Care Consultation is particularly timely and necessary for families living in isolation while receiving and providing care.

The Scripps evaluation team is thrilled to be engaged with such an innovative project. The evaluation findings will be used to improve the Dementia Friends and Care Consultation programs and will help the Community Coalition think about future services and supports for individuals living with dementia and those who care for them.