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Dementia Dialogues hits a new milestone, offers course in Spanish

June 30, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

The Dementia Dialogues program has already trained more than 22,000 individuals since it was created by the Arnold School’s Office for the Study of Aging in 2002. The five-session course is designed to educate caregivers of persons who exhibit signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.

In 2015, the Office for the Study of Aging kicked off a nationwide rollout of the program with a session taught by Program Development and Training Manager Macie Smith at the Utah Department of Health. Utah also hosted the latest milestone for the Dementia Dialogues program: the first time the course was offered in Spanish. 

The idea for a Dementia Dialogues course conducted in Spanish arose after Spanish community leaders from Alliance Community Service, Jeanette Villalta and Marcella Fioramonte, attended an English-based course led by Smith. “They were impressed by the training and shared their experience with others in the community,” says Liz Garcia-Leavitt, a health educator and clinical social worker with the University of Utah’s Center for Alzheimer’s Care Imaging and Research.  

In speaking with community members, Villalta and Fioramonte became aware of the broad impact of dementia and the widespread need for foundational education on the topic. The two of them partnered with Garcia-Leavitt and the Utah Department of Health to organize the training and facilitate the translation of the materials into Spanish. Throughout the process, the team worked closely with Smith and the Office for the Study of Aging as well as UofSC social work professor Sue Levkoff to adapt the materials. Forty participants quickly registered for the class, and a waitlist was created for future trainings.  

“Many credited the course for changing their perspective of dementia,” says Garcia-Leavitt of the participants’ positive reactions to the training. “The course helped provide them with tools to understand and support their patients and loved ones.”

The University of Utah is planning to offer future trainings in Spanish in collaboration with Alliance Community Service. They are also interested in engaging more Spanish speakers to attend the train-the-trainer class on the Dementia Dialogues in order to expand the program to other areas around the state.

An estimated 44 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease, including approximately five million in the United States. The number of people with the disease doubles every five years. The Office for the Study of Aging maintains the Alzheimer’s Disease Registry, the most comprehensive registry of its kind. Learn more with the 2017 Annual Report.