Trisha Witham: Dementia Care Specialist Update

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 | by Trisha Witham l Dementia Care Specialist l ADRC |


About 115,000 people in Wisconsin age 65 and older are living with some form of dementia.  In two years, there will be enough people with dementia in the state of Wisconsin to fill both Lambeau Field and Miller Park combined!  I recently attended a game at Lambeau Field, and since the Packers were devastatingly losing to the Vikings, I took a moment to look around and imagined that all the people there had some form of dementia.  The sudden magnitude of that hit me like a ton of bricks, and then the second realization hit…for every person in attendance, there is another family member and/or friend helping to care.  Then I thought for every family and/or friend care partner, there has to be enough professional care workers to give them a break when needed and to provide 24/7 care if their loved one goes to an assisted living or nursing home.  That is a lot of people and again, this was just one stadium.  After all this thinking, I found myself extremely fortunate that I get to do a job that makes an impact in the lives of people with dementia and their care partners every day!

Dementia is truly everyone’s business, as it will affect us all if it has not already.  It is important to realize that anyone with a brain is at risk for dementia and every decade we live, our risk increases.  Although science is finding that there are things we can do to lower our risk, Alzheimer’s and related dementias do NOT discriminate.  Since we have a large number of baby boomers who will live longer than ever before, we will see a 68% increase in Alzheimer’s and related dementia by 2035.  The role of dementia care specialist is to support people with dementia and their care partners, helping them to stay active and remain living in their homes longer.   The dementia care specialist is also responsible for leading the way to create dementia friendly communities and to provide dementia capable training to ADRC staff.  So what was accomplished through this position in 2017?  In 2017, the Aging & Disability Resource Center worked with 24 different businesses, churches, and organizations to provide dementia friendly training, reaching about 160 people.  Staff of the ADRC also provided training to many groups about Normal Forgetfulness versus What’s Not, Dementia 101, Brain Health, and other dementia and memory related topics.  These were all done in an effort to de-stigmatize dementia and reinforce the benefit of early detection.  A great deal more happened in 2017 as it relates to resources for people with dementia and their families.  These include:

  • Early Stage Memory Loss Support Group started in Spooner
  • 1st annual “Reelin’ In New Memories” fishing event established in Spooner
  • The dementia care specialist worked with 99 individuals with 90 contacts to assist with education, emotional support, options, resources, and care planning
  • The dementia care specialist conducted outreach through community presentations, dementia-friendly training, being a vendor at local health fairs and related conferences reaching over 1,600 people
  • 136 people received a memory screen
  • Served 12 people living with dementia with the Music & Memory program
  • Began a brain wellness program “Breakfast for Your Brain” with 20 people attending monthly

As we begin 2018, here are the many initiatives and dementia related resources to look forward too:

  • Free, confidential, 10 minute memory screens to measure your baseline
  • Dementia 101 education sessions
  • Additional brain wellness programs “Breakfast for Your Brain” 
  • 2nd annual “Reelin’ in New Memories” event in Spooner (June 2018)
  • Music & Memory iPod/headset available for people with dementia
  • Describe, Investigate, Create, and Evaluate (DICE) training tool available for family/friend care partners
  • Dementia Care Coalition to form in Rusk County 
  • Hosting a MemoryCare play, “Steering Into the Skid” in Rice Lake (June 2018)
  • Offering a look inside dementia through the Dementia Live experience through community events as well as being available privately for families/friends who want to gain a better understanding of what their love one is going through
  • Continued dementia friendly training available to businesses, organizations, and the faith-based community
  • Caregiver conference (October 2018)
  • Continued assistance with education, emotional support, options, resources, and care planning

To access any of these resources, to learn more, or to get involved, please contact the Aging & Disability Resource Center (ADRC), 1-888-538-3031 or email Trisha Witham, dementia care specialist: trisha.witham@co.barron.wi.us.  



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