The Archway Partnership is collaborating with two of UGA’s academic colleges to help residents in rural Georgia communities better understand Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia.

Faculty from the College of Public Health’s Institute of Gerontology and from Extension, part of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, are holding workshops in Grady, Hart, McDuffie and Washington counties for people at risk of dementia, those diagnosed with the disease and caregivers.

“We know that Alzheimer’s disease is a major problem all across Georgia, but there are so many barriers to accessing help,” said Lisa Renzi-Hammond, an associate professor in the Institute of Gerontology. “So many of Georgia’s families and healthcare providers alike feel the stress and the strain from not knowing about and not being able to access the services they need to live healthy and engaged lives with Alzheimer’s disease. Our work with the Archway Partnership is so key to providing these services.”

UGA health educators will identify risk factors for dementia, including ethnicity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and lifestyle choices, such as smoking. They also plan to conduct focus groups, listening sessions and surveys to determine the need for additional information in each community.

“For a long time, we have known how diet and lifestyle impact certain types of diseases like cancer, heart disease or diabetes but we are increasingly realizing how they also impact cognitive health and function,” said Denise Everson, a program development coordinator for Cooperative Extension in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “We may have a tendency to disregard certain things as part of the aging process but it doesn’t have to be like that. Helping people be more comfortable talking to their doctor about these kinds of symptoms can lead to earlier prevention and diagnosis and we can address these to improve treatment.”

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are the fifth leading cause of death in people in the United State older than 65; about 6 million Americans suffer from the disease. More than half are not formally diagnosed, and therefore receive no treatment or care.

Jenay Beer, associate professor in the Institute of Gerontology, praised the project.

“UGA’s Archway Partnership has an incredible ability to rally together all of the stakeholders in a community, pair those stakeholders with faculty who are ready to serve, and create solutions that are entirely unique and designed to work in that community,” Beer said.

The Archway Partnership is a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit. Archway communities have a UGA professional living in their communities to serve as a liaison between residents, who identify and prioritize local challenges, and the vast resources of the University of Georgia.