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CARES Act Funding Fosters Dementia Care, Addresses Isolation

Alzheimer's Association partners with Montana Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (MGWEP) and senior living communities to enhance use of virtual technology, mitigate social isolation and strengthen caregiver skills and resources


March 24, 2021 | View PDF

Billings - The Alzheimer's Association announced the Montana Project VITAL (Virtual Inclusive Technology for All) in partnership with the Montana Geriatric Workforce Enhancement Program (MGWEP). This project utilizes virtual technology to relieve the challenging symptoms of social isolation for residents in nursing homes, assisted living and memory care communities.

With one-time funding from the CARES Act, the Montana Project VITAL allowed for placement of ten iN2L tablets in six senior living communities statewide to help bring families together virtually, enhance engagement and mitigate feelings of social isolation. Additionally, the funding strengthened caregiver skills and resources by supporting virtual education programs.

"The Montana Project VITAL utilizes personalized communication tools such as video call connections and online support tools to help staff assist residents in connecting with their loved ones during these challenging times," said Whitney Thompson, Alzheimer's Association, Montana Chapter program director.

The tablets are preloaded with software programming from iN2L, enabling residents to connect with their loved ones via video chat. The tablets further foster connection with family by creating individual profiles for every resident, with the added ability for family to add personal photos and videos to those profiles for residents to view whenever they like.

"Our residents enjoy the various photos and videos on the tablets that prompt memories. It encourages meaningful conversations of fond recollections," said Marlena Azure, community relations coordinator, Highgate at Great Falls.

The iN2L tablets include videos of national and international destinations, allowing residents to virtually visit locations near and far. "They really enjoy the virtual tours," said Julia Van Houdt, life enhancement coordinator, Highgate of Bozeman, "As soon as one ends, they ask 'where are we going next?'" Van Houdt noted the tablets are an important way to engage those who cannot or prefer not to take part in group activities. Other senior living communities taking part in the pilot project include: Beehive Homes, Hamilton, Edgewood Senior Living, Helena, The Springs at Butte and The Springs at Whitefish.

Project VITAL was initially piloted in Florida earlier in the pandemic in partnership with iN2L and created under guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding infection control and prevention of COVID-19 in facilities for the health and safety of all residents. "By adopting a program already proven successful in Florida, we were able to leverage a small amount of CARES Act funding to create meaningful engagement outcomes using customized technology and resources," said Lynn Mullowney Cabrera, Alzheimer's Association, Montana Chapter executive director.

The project also features expanded virtual education opportunities for family members and caregivers including COVID-19 and Caregiving and the Association's Living with Alzheimer's disease series, developed for caregivers through every stage of the disease. Other topics include 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's, Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia, Effective Communication Strategies, Understanding and Responding to Dementia Related Behaviors and more.

Additional resources for caregivers and the community include the Alzheimer's Association Community Resource Finder, ALZConnected, a virtual support community, and Alzheimer's Navigator, an online tool to develop customized action plans. For more information, please contact the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900 or email [email protected]

Featured virtual education opportunity

Effective Communication Strategies, open to the public on Tuesday, March 23, 5-6 p.m. This free program teaches caregivers to decode the verbal and behavioral communication of someone who has Alzheimer's and another dementia. Attendees will learn the importance of creating meaningful connections through every stage of the disease. Register at or call 800-272-3900.


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