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Bay Path University Awarded Council of Independent Colleges Grant

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University has been awarded a $13,000 grant from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) program “Intergenerational Connections: Students Serving Older Adults.” This program is supported by the AARP Foundation. The grant will be used over a one-year period to enhance connections between undergraduate students, particularly those majoring in health and human studies fields, and older adults in the community suffering from memory loss and dementia, a progressive disease with no known cure.

For many caregivers and families, there is a grieving process when a loved one is diagnosed with dementia. They often do not know what to say or how to respond to behaviors associated with the disease. Communication difficulties can lead to frustration and anger, which causes stress in the relationship and reduced quality of life for all involved. Students participating in this program will gain empathy and invaluable skills in working with not only the affected older adults, but also families and caregivers.

Utilizing standardized memory kits consisting of common household items, undergraduate students will learn to communicate in meaningful ways with older adults who may suffer from this disease and train others to do so, helping to preserve and/or improve their quality of life. This project stems from the evidence-based CONNECT (Communicating Naturally with Every Caring Touch) program, developed by two Bay Path University professors of Occupational Therapy, Cheryl Boucakis and Melissa Green, to address the challenges faced by caregivers and family of individuals with dementia.

CONNECT was piloted in 2016 at a local assisted-living facility, engaging graduate students in Bay Path’s master of occupational therapy program in research and implementation. Building upon this work, the CIC-funded project will extend participation in the CONNECT program to undergraduate students at a level appropriate to their education and experience, working with older adults at agencies and nonprofits in Massachusetts and Connecticut where Bay Path University has established partnerships serving this population.

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