Dementia program first of its kind

Eastern Michigan University is now offering the first graduate-level certificate program in the country that specializes in the study of dementia.

The graduate certificate in dementia is designed to accommodate the needs of professional groups such as nurses, social workers, dieticians and psychologists.

The program was created to meet the needs of the increasing number of older individuals living in the United States. Within the next 30 years, experts predict the proportion of older Americans will grow to almost 22 percent.

The program is for graduate students interested in dementia services that provide innovative clinical practices.

Elizabeth Schuster, professor in the gerontology program, said the program provides a theoretical framework and practical grounding for working with families and persons with dementia in the home, community-based programs and 24-hour care settings.

Students in the program can expect to focus on the social psychology of dementia, changes in the person and their communication and ways they compensate throughout the progression of dementia. Students will learn ways to accommodate and deal with these changes.

Jennifer Gross, a sophomore psychology major, is interested in the program. Although Gross is not yet a graduate student, she plans to seek more information about the certificate program.

“I’ve always had an interest in helping people, but especially the older generation,” she said. “My grandfather had dementia and he died two years ago, and I never really knew what it was. I guess you could say this issue is close to me and this is what sparked my interest in it.”

A major theme of the program is focusing on assessing an individual’s environment and the development of supportive interventions to increase the well-being of the person with dementia.

Students who receive the certificate can expect to use it in several different areas. The certificate can be applicable in hospitals, research centers, home health care and veteran services.

Samuel Peters, a junior, said while he’s not interested in the program, he sees the need and urgency of it.

“When I was in high school, we used to go to different nursing homes and sing to the patients once a week,” he said. “It was one guy that really took to me, but even though he saw me every week, every time I saw him he didn’t know who I was. It was really sad, so I can definitely see how this program would be useful.

“I just hope the right people go into it because they will be dealing face to face with people’s parents or grandparents. Not just anybody is cut out for it I think.”

In order to be admitted into the program, applicants must have obtained a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and a minimum of a 2.5 grade-point average is required.

Students must also meet the graduate school admission requirements and submit a one-page personal statement describing professional history and goals in dementia care. Applicants also will have an interview with the certificate coordinator.

From 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, June 9 in the Student Center, a dementia information session will take place for those interested in the program or individuals interested in learning more about dementia.

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