Older woman with her caregiver.

West Michigan Organization Making It Easier to Find Dementia Resources

With an aging population, Michigan and other states are grappling with looming public health concerns, including dementia.

Earlier this year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer described Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia as an “emerging public health crisis for Michigan and the nation.”

Dementia describes a loss of cognitive functioning as it relates to memory, thinking and reasoning that interferes with everyday activities. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. In 2018, about 185,000 Michigan residents older than 65 were living with Alzheimer’s disease and that figure is projected to rise to 220,000 by 2025, a jump of more than 20%, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

In West Michigan, a broad coalition of partners, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, are working together to ensure community members know where they can access care, the types of caregiver support that is available and how to determine if they or a loved one need help. Rethinking Dementia launched at the end of 2015 following a Grand Rapids summit that brought national experts to the region.

Founded with the intent to form a better system of care for people with dementia, Rethinking Dementia’s mission is imperative as numbers continue to rise.

“The need is there and growing,” said director Lisa Misenhimer.

Through the organization’s website, app and other outreach efforts, Rethinking Dementia serves as an easy entry point for people grappling with where to find dementia-related services. Making an easily accessible guide of local providers, retirement and assisted living communities, legal and financial services, caregiver supports, and other services means help is a click or call away.

Free memory screenings are also offered through a partnership with Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. The evidence-based screening tool is administered by MSU staff and trained volunteers. It doesn’t offer a diagnosis, but it can help people decide if they need to see a memory specialist to determine a cause for any symptoms they might be experiencing.

In addition to a focus on people with dementia, Rethinking Dementia also wants to empower caregivers to ensure their quality of life isn’t affected due to lack of support. The organization connects caregivers to respite and in-home care, adult day care options and more.

Misenhimer said there’s potential for the organization to expand in other parts of the state. The West Michigan operation has thrived in part thanks to a dedicated commitment from partner organizations, she said. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network have been an active partner since the group formed.

“Dementia, in its various forms, will impact each one of us either directly or indirectly in our lifetime,” said Cynthia Swain, manager, Provider Affairs at BCBSM and a Rethinking Dementia board member. “The Rethinking Dementia website is a valuable resource that will assist people in finding the care they need. Our mission is to provide access to community education, resources and support.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Rethinking Dementia, visit their website.

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Photo credit: Fred Froese

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