Through a grant awarded by the U.S. Administration for Community Living, the Orange County Department on Aging (OCDOA) has championed an initiative called “Orange County CARES” which stands for “Caregiver Awareness Respite Education and Support.” Professor Jenny Womack was the co-author of the grant, along with Dr. Mary Fraser, director of the Aging Transitions team at OCDOA, and serves as the project coordinator. Over the past three years, a team of social workers and occupational therapists have provided education, training, caregiver respite services, in-home consultations, support groups and dementia friendly business training , all of which are free of charge to
residents of Orange County, NC over 60 years old, their care partners and related service providers. By offering such services, this talented multidisciplinary team hopes to create and sustain conditions wherein individuals with dementia and their care providers are respectfully supported and the community at large is educated and integrated into a sustainable solution. doctoral student Ryan LaValley is a member of this dynamic team as is UNC MSOT alumna Marie Dagger. Marie Dagger, MSOT class of 2015,took advantage of a long work commute to consider ways in which she could better support her own family as they learned to live with Alzheimer’s Disease. Instead, an announcement on the radio station about a new grant-funded initiative gave her a different option to respond to the needs of families. That announcement led Marie to apply for a full-time position with the OC CARES team, a specialty team serving families living with dementia. In this role, Marie has provided training to over 75 businesses in a Dementia Friendly Business initiative, as well as dozens of families and direct care workers through other education sessions. Although training is her primary role, Marie also supports the caregiver respite program and provides direct services in the home to families who deal with challenging behaviors due to dementia. Kudos to this scholar and change agent!