By: Jolie Crowder, International Association for Indigenous Aging; Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Staff; and Lori Nisson, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute
When life is disrupted by crisis, as it was in 2020, some people see opportunities – for change, for action, for introspection – that they might not otherwise see.
Because of the pandemic, we have all had to pivot and make difficult changes. Concepts such as long-term planning became even more difficult.
Even during non-public health emergency times, long-term project planning can be tough. Add in the COVID pandemic, new emergency teleworking policies, and tribes going into “emergency operations only” status and that is more than enough work. Yet, we know that when we all work together we can create a recipe for success and face anything, including health issues such as dementia.
Supportive collaborations with veteran teams such as the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. (ITCA) Area Agency on Aging make things go more smoothly.
The team, including Laurai Atcitty, Mary Weston, Jackie Edwards, and Flor Olivas are very helpful in their efforts to support elders. Atcitty is the Director of ITCA’s Area Agency on Aging (AAA). The ITCA-AAA supports the Older Americans Act (OAA) Title III and Title VII Programs for 17 tribal governments and the OAA Title VI Program for 4 tribes in Arizona.
Last year Atcitty and her team were awarded an Administration for Community Living (ACL) Tribal Alzheimer’s Disease Program Initiative (ADPI) grant. Tohono O’odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and the Hualapai Tribe are partners for the three-year project. The goal is to enable elders living with dementia and their caregivers to remain independent and safe in their homes. Activities include culturally appropriate information and training designed to increase tribal dementia-capable supports and services.
ADPI project manager, Mary Weston, brings years of direct service experience to the grant, including past work at the State of Arizona and in several Tribal communities. Weston is one of only a handful of Master Trainers in the U.S. for the evidence-based Powerful Tools for Caregivers program. The other PTC Master Trainer is ITCA Caregiver Support Program Coordinator, Jackie Edwards. The two plan to provide a dementia training session with the Powerful Tools training as part of their ADPI project. Tribal partner staff will be trained as Powerful Tools class leaders and offer the program with the added dementia content in their tribal communities.
The ITCA team joins up with Banner Alzheimer’s Institute (BAI). BAI will bring non-medical dementia expertise and services from their Native American Outreach Program to the three participating tribes and will offer staff training to help build local capacity. Long-time Outreach Program Manager, Nicole Lomay; Family and Community Services Director, Lori Nisson; and Associate Director of Outreach, Heather Mulder have more than twenty years’ experience working with Arizona tribal communities.
Lomay explained, “We are excited to partner with ITCA on the ADPI grant. We have always had mutual respect and support of each other’s programs. This brings great programs and opportunities to the tribal communities we serve across Arizona.”
Other big project activities include:
- Training local tribal staff as Dementia Friends Champions who will then bring the sessions to their tribes
- Walk With Me: Using Music for those with Memory Loss in Tribal Communities training for caregivers and people living with dementia using a new traditional/tribal music CD created by BAI
- Maintain a Healthy Mind brain health training in tribal communities
Though not a part of their ADPI project, ITCA has Master Trainers and Lay Leaders on staff who provide training in the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP), Diabetes Self-Management Program (DSMP), Enhance Fitness (EF) and A Matter of Balance (MOB) (falls prevention) programs. They are co-located with the ITCA tribal epidemiology center and have both environmental and water quality programs, among other public health and health promotion activities.
Additional resources and information:
Keep an eye out for the 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Program Initiative (ADPI) – Dementia Capability in Indian Country Grant!
Resources from BAI Native American Outreach Program:
- Email to sign up for a new iteration of the Beacon, a free electronic newsletter, created for family and professional caregivers working with tribal communities.
- Navigating through Memory Loss: A guide for patients and families, an exceptional resource that addresses current and ongoing Alzheimer’s/dementia medical, emotional, social, and financial needs. Please email Nicole Lomay for more information about cost and shipping.
- Native American Caregiver Circle Group, a group to discuss Alzheimer’s disease and provide strategies for caregivers of people with memory loss. Anyone who wants to learn more about this important topic, including caregivers, family members, and professionals, are invited and encouraged to join our conversation. Group discussions are held from 10:00 – 10:30 am (Arizona time) on the second Thursday of each month. Please email Nicole for dial-in details or questions.
- CARE T.I.P.S: Short and practical tips addressing some of the most common challenges caregivers face and providing simple solutions to address the situation effectively.
- Native American Toolkit on Alzheimer’s disease: This toolkit and training program is designed to help educate and support families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias by training professionals that work in tribal communities. Email Nicole to schedule a training for your team or sign up for the next regularly scheduled Toolkit Training.
- Upcoming 16th Annual Conference on Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia in Native Americans, Oct. 19-20, 2022. Check this page for more information about the 2022 conference coming soon: Native American Alzheimer’s Disease Conference.