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Associate Professor Jennifer Martindale-Adams and Professor Linda Nichols of UTHSC Receive Grant for Caregiver Intervention in Tribal Communities

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A $371,263 grant from the Rx Foundation will allow Dr. Jennifer Martindale-Adams (left) and her collaborator, Dr. Linda Nichols, to help American Indian and Alaska Native family caregivers of persons with dementia deal with patient behavioral issues and better cope with the stresses of caregiving.

Today, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) announced two faculty members have received a significant grant from the Rx Foundation to assist American Indian and Native Alaskan caregivers.

Family caregivers of those with dementia are at risk for depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, increased illness and hospitalization, according to a strong body of evidence from studies funded by the National Institutes of Health. Professors Jennifer Martindale-Adams, EdD, and Linda Nichols, PhD, will work to help American Indian and Alaska Native family caregivers of people with dementia better manage the behavioral issues of their loved ones who are ill, and cope with the stress their care creates.

The three-year grant, totaling $371,263, is from the Rx Foundation to fund this work in partnership with the Tribal Public Health Nursing Program of the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Native American Caregiver Support Program of the Administration on Aging (AoA), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living.

“Challenges for American Indian and Alaska Native caregivers are amplified by the relative lack of long-term services and supports, and by the rural and frontier setting of many Tribal communities,” said Dr. Martindale-Adams, principal investigator and an associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at UTHSC.

“We will now be able to offer these caregivers a proven dementia caregiving behavioral intervention,” said Dr. Nichols, a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine.

The intervention they have developed is called Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregivers Health in Tribal Communities, referred to as “REACH into Indian Country.” It provides a strategy and framework for health and social support that professionals can use to help family caregivers. The project expands on work done by Drs. Martindale-Adams and Nichols as co-directors of the National Caregiving Center, which they developed over the years at the Memphis VA Medical Center.

They are working to establish a similar Caregiver Center at UTHSC, where they will train and certify IHS, Tribal and AoA staff in the REACH intervention.

“We are grateful to the Rx Foundation for providing us this funding to expand and adapt our REACH VA intervention to meet the pressing need for caregiver support in the 566 federally recognized tribes and tribal organizations,” Dr. Nichols said.

The purpose of the Rx Foundation is to fund innovative projects to improve the quality of health care in the United States. While primary emphasis is given to medical and hospital staff procedures and practices affecting all levels and forms of in- and out-patient care, the Foundation also funds efforts to ensure greater public access to medical services. The Rx Foundation takes risks and looks for opportunities to be an early funder of cutting-edge ideas.