The Dementia Engagement, Education and Research (DEER) program
In October 2018, with the recognition that dementia is a public health priority, the University of Nevada, Reno School of Community Health Sciences launched the Dementia Engagement, Education and Research (DEER) Program, under the leadership and direction of Dr. Jennifer Carson, a critical gerontologist who is internationally recognized for her award-winning dementia education programs for professional and family care partners. Guided by an ‘authentic partnerships’ approach that directly engages persons living with dementia and family and professional care partners in all research and education activities, the DEER Program aims to leverage partnerships and collaborations in an effort to improve the culture of dementia and dementia care practices in Nevada and around the world.
The DEER Program currently leads a number of innovative research, education and community-based initiatives, including:
- Lead administration and facilitation of Dementia Friendly Nevada, a statewide, volunteer-driven effort that aims to develop and promote communities that are respectful, educated, supportive and inclusive of persons living with dementia and their care partners, with community groups in urban, rural and tribal communities. This initiative is funded by the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division.
- Dementia Conversations with Chuck and Jennifer, a monthly, online discussion facilitated by national dementia advocate Chuck McClatchey and Dr. Carson, who shares her perspective and experiences as a family care partner. People living with dementia and family care partners are invited to join the discussion as Chuck and Jennifer talk openly and honestly about what it means to live with dementia and share their ideas for living well.
- State licensee for the awareness-raising Dementia Friends program, taught in person and online. The Dementia Friends program is a global movement that is changing the way people think, act, and talk about dementia. In the Dementia Friends information session, we cover the basics of dementia, discuss differences between dementia and normal aging, go through activities to better understand what it’s like to live with dementia, and then review strategies for effective communication with someone living with dementia.
- Development, delivery and evaluation of a comprehensive, evidence-informed, 12-hour family and professional care partner dementia education program: Bravo Zulu: Achieving Excellence in Relationship-Centered Care. This program, developed in partnership with the Nevada Department of Veterans Services and the Perry Foundation, has been nominated for an Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which recognizes state partners for outstanding programs that support Veterans in their states.
- Co-lead, administration and facilitation of the Nevada COVID-19 Aging Network (Nevada CAN)rapid response, including leadership of Nevada CAN’s Social Support Action Team and its program innovation, the NEST (Nevada Ensures Support Together) Collaborative, which provides virtual, volunteer-hosted one-to-one and small group mutual social support, as well as the assessment and reporting of identified elder needs. Along with partners from the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division, the DEER Program leads this statewide collaboration of over 40 aging and social service organizations from across the state. This initiative is funded by the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division.
- Partner with the University's School of Medicine’s Sanford Center for Aging on a U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program grant. The DEER Program’s role is to provide comprehensive education for care partners of persons living with dementia and to conduct statewide outreach for the Improving Care of Elders through Community and Academic Partnerships (ICECAP Nevada) initiative, which includes inter-professional geriatrics and dementia care training for primary care providers, health professions students, long-term care professionals and family care partners.
- Development, delivery and evaluation of a comprehensive, evidence-informed community and neighborhood-team development program for long-term care/senior living communities, The Quest Upstream, which aims to foster and support dementia-inclusive residential care communities. Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill, NC, Dr. Carson’s research partners for The Quest Upstream, received a 2018 Best Practice Award from Friends of Residents in Long-Term Care “for providing exemplary programming which reflects person-centered values, supports the rights of residents and improves quality of care.”
- Co-developer and cast member of Disrupt Dementia, a non-fiction theater performance that is part of Dr. Bill Thomas’ international ChangingAging Tour, which blends qualitative research findings, medical science, storytelling, art and live music, to shatter damaging myths about aging and dementia, and to illuminate possibilities for supportive care partnering and living well. Dr. Carson has performed Disrupt Dementia in 51 cities across North America.