Dementia Institute Launches in West Michigan

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Nonprofit serves the community with full-service training, respite, support and other resources.

Did you know? Dementia isn't a specific disease but a general term for the persistent loss of brain function, including impairment of memory, abstract thinking and decision-making that interferes with everyday life, with Alzheimer's Disease being the most common type. Over 120 other types exist, including Vascular, Lewy Body, and Frontotemporal.

Typically, the journey of dementia can last between eight to 20 years, and those living with dementia visit the ER an average of three times more frequently than others. However, with the right kinds of engagement, people living with dementia can still experience relationships and joy.

Knowing these facts, it's easy to see a need exists for supporting those living with dementia and their loved ones. And now, with seven dementia certifications among its professional staff and a depth of practical resources not found anywhere else in the region, the Dementia Institute is launching in West Michigan this month.

With an aim of serving the needs of those with dementia and their loved ones, the Institute will make available training classes, simulations, support groups, care navigation and respite for caregivers. Also, access to a continuum of care that includes in-home, day center, and in-facility care will serve the needs of persons living with early- to late-stage Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.

Based out of office and a training space in southeast Grand Rapids, the nonprofit offers services to individuals and other care providers centering on these three areas:

  • Education: Training and certification sessions are practical and tailored for family and friends, first responders, healthcare providers and clergy. The Dementia JourneyTM simulation can be experienced by friends and the whole family.
  • Care: The community can benefit from consultations and care navigation, support groups and grief counseling, engagement kits, and Evening StarTM, a worship program designed specifically to serve the spiritual health of people with dementia. A dementia-specialized day center complements in-home and overnight respite care alternatives.
  • Research: The Dementia Institute elevates the standards of dementia care in West Michigan and beyond through quality-of-care initiatives and research in partnership with universities.

The organization is led by longtime clinical leader Curt Gritters, RN, BSN, MBA, who serves as Director. Longtime memory care leaders Rosemary Apol-Hoezee, RN, MPH, CPRHM, and Lois Thomas, RN, BSN, are Dementia Specialists; Melanie Newhouse, RN, BSN, is Dementia Coach, and Ron Duemler, MD, a fellowship-trained and board-certified geriatrician, is the Medical Director.

"Everyone knows someone with dementia," said Gritters. "That means there are many people in West Michigan who need support in their care for family and friends. Thankfully, there's now a wide array of practical resources to maintain relationships and prolong independence. The relief and hope we see and hear about at the end of our classes, support groups, consultations or respite days ... is quite profound. Word is traveling fast, and we're already getting requests from all over the country, even international."

The organization initiated pilot programming in the fall of 2023 to support caregivers of the estimated 50,000 people living with dementia in West Michigan. Since then, the Institute has engaged with numerous area healthcare providers, first responders, clergy, universities and health-related organizations.

"Collectively, the Dementia Institute team has been developing expertise in dementia care over the last 30 years, so it's time to take what we learned and turn it into resources and services for individuals and area organizations across the region" Gritters added, referring to the team's pioneering roles in developing Holland Home's memory care services.

Learn more, visit the Dementia Institute.

Courtesy of West Michigan Woman.


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