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Research Review

Change AGEnts Network Will Spur Transformations in Dementia Caregiving

A new coalition of experts known as the Hartford Change AGEnts Initiative Dementia Caregiving Network is 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 multiyear project designed to create change in the practice environment that will improve the health of older adults, their families, and their 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," says 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 cochairs 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 people 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 says. "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 adds 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 health care workers and changes in federal and state policy," Stevens says.

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,” says Rachael Watman, senior program officer for the John A. Hartford Foundation. “We aim to connect to broader national efforts and take action that leads to measurable improvements in the care of older Americans."

— Source: Gerontological Society of America