North Carolina moves forward to be a more “Dementia Capable State”

North Carolina, through its Alzheimer’s and Dementia Coalition, is moving forward on addressing five elements key to making North Carolina a more ‘dementia capable’ state. The key elements are:

  1. Public Education and Awareness including early detection, public education, general awareness and advocacy.
  2. Workforce Development including training for professionals, paraprofessionals and direct care workers to enhance quality care or create efficiency.
  3. Care Transitions which include integrated care, discharge planning and medical homes.
  4. Supports for People with dementia including consumer directed care, reaching-out to and respecting diversity.
  5. Caregiver Supports including caregiver training, respite care, information and assistance, support groups and options counseling.

Recommendations around these elements will be addressed in the next four-year DAAS Aging Services Plan. Mark Hensley, the  Project C.A.R.E. lead, is the contact person for our work on this plan and the Coalition.

GEM has been the lead agency in Dare County proactively addressing these issues. We have provided complimentary Memory Screenings since 2007 promoting early detection. GEM’s Community Outreach parties have been instrumental in providing public education, general awareness and advocacy reaching out to the many volunteers that helped provide these events. We present a National Candlelighting to “Honor, Remember and Care” for our friends and families that have experienced cognitive challenges since 2007.

Gail developed with Susan Firman, RN and Linda Hester the workshop “Caring Effectively for People with Dementia.” Gail has been teaching this class at the College of the Albemarle for over 10 years. Students include  Nurse’s aides, family and professional caregivers and community friends. We are working together to promote quality care for people with Dementia. This class carries 12.0 Continuing Education Credits for staff of Assisted Living Facilities.  GEM also collaborates with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to provide qualification classes for “Qualified Dementia Care Provider]” increasing the knowledge of professionals and family caregivers in Dementia Care. Our next class will be June 21, 2014.

GEM has partnered with Dr. C. Petzing, Cathy Pfendler, RN to develop a four page document, “Who am I?” This is for family caregivers to complete and bring to the hospital Emergency Department if a visit is necessary. This document will assist the staff in caring for your loved one with memory loss in the most proactive way.

GEM’s newest program is Geriatric Care Management which will help caregivers and people with cognitive challenges with care transitions and community inclusion.

Supports for People with Dementia include consumer directed care, reaching-out to and respecting diversity. GEM has learned through the years and applied this knowledge by providing programming that enhances the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers. Our programming is designed to provide purpose and ensure success.

GEM has provided many workshops supporting caregivers. Our first Caregiver Education Conference featured Teepa Snow and Melanie Bunn at St. Andrews by the Sea in 2001. Our latest workshop “Hopeful Aging” promoted the” I’m Still Here Approach”© of Hearthstone Alzheimer Care in February 2014.

GEM developed the first Group Respite Care program in Dare and successfully provided care for 10 years.  We currently provide the GEM CLUB a monthly lunch and learn for anyone interested in the BEST Practices in Care for people with cognitive challenges. GEM‘s website provides the latest information about issues in dementia. GEM’s Issues and Concerns of Caregivers was the first Alzheimer’s Support Group on the beach beginning in 1997.

If you would like to know more about GEM please call Gail Sonnesso, MS, QDCS @ 252-480-3354 or email her at