Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota Partners on a Five-Year Grant to Continue Dementia Research

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota has been named as partner on a five-year grant to continue a collaborative study with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health to provide greater understanding about the best and most effective ways to support families caring for loved ones experiencing Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.

For people over age 60, an estimated 5% to 8% are affected by dementia-related conditions, according to the World Health Organization. With increasing numbers of older adults, those rates are expected to rise sharply in coming years. The Minnesota Department of Health predicts nearly 120,000 Minnesotans will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by 2025.  

“Our Older Adult Services touch thousands of adults across the state each year and a growing area of need is for individuals and families is caregiver support for families who have loved ones experiencing dementia,” said Roxanne Jenkins, associate vice president of Older Adult Services at Lutheran Social Service. “We are extremely honored to continue our partnership with the University of Minnesota, and we look forward to the outcome of this work to improve support to individuals and families facing Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.”

The project is funded by a five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Joseph E. Gaugler, a professor and the Robert L. Kane Endowed Chair of Long-Term Care and Aging at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, is leading the initiative.

"The majority of care that people who live with dementia receive is provided at home and in the community. Lutheran Social Service has been at the forefront in delivering robust and highly valued support to older persons in Minnesota and beyond through the various older adult volunteer services. There has been and is no better partner than Lutheran Social Service to further enhance the "dementia capability" of its wonderful volunteers,” said Dr. Joseph E. Gaugler.

Phase one of the study launched in 2019 with a pilot project in Anoka and St. Louis counties that utilized small teams of LSS Senior Companion volunteers who were specially trained with an evidence-based curriculum to provide care and support to older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. While the health and wellbeing of those with dementia and their caregivers are being measured, increased quality of life for the person with memory concerns, reduced caregiver distress and cost-effective services are anticipated outcomes.

Initial results indicate that nonprofessionals can be very effective in providing care to those with declining memory challenges with specialized training and support.

Jenkins said that having conversations with someone about their memory loss is an important first step. “While those are hard conversations to have,” Jenkins said, “they offer an opportunity for families to learn together about the disease and determine the wishes of their loved ones in how they want to live their lives going forward. That can be such a tremendous gift to everyone.”

Jenkins added that as the disease progresses, communication can become a difficult challenge and encouraged families to be patient with their loved ones and find activities that bring them joy and improve the quality of their lives.

Phase two of the study will expand the scope of the project to all Minnesota counties and 32 counties in North Dakota. LSS Senior Companions, who provide friendship and support to older adults to help them remain in their homes, will be trained. The expanded project also provides an opportunity to invite other individuals and organizations that address memory-loss concerns to participate and increase their skills and confidence.

For more information, please contact Nicole Bauer, senior director with LSS Companion Services at 651.283.0085 or