Thrive Alliance adds new dementia care coach

Tiffany Gorski-Kimrey

To put it in her own words, Tiffany Gorski-Kimrey has “always wanted to work with people.”

In high school and college, she volunteered at nursing homes, where she was enthralled by her conversations with residents.

“They just have so many fascinating stories and lost history that people just don’t even realize,” she said.

Now, Gorski-Kimrey is in a position that puts her in her element, as she has been named to the newly-created position of dementia care coach at Thrive Alliance. She began in the position in early January.

Gorski-Kimrey has been with the organization since 2019, when she joined as a care manager. She later served as care coordinator at the Aging and Disability Resource Center.

“The best part of my new job is reaching out to even a more specialized client list and being able to help the caregiver and give them more support than what they had before,” she said.

Thrive Alliance is in the early stages of training for this new position. Much of her work as dementia care coach will be part of the Dementia Care Intervention Program, she said. Eskenazi Health has a similar program.

“So they know it works, and now they’re trying to get all the different areas of aging into the program,” she said. “So we are the pilot program … including myself, five other areas.”

In partnership with Indiana University and three other Area Agencies on Aging, and with support from Brown County Community Foundation, Thrive Alliance has implemented a dementia intervention program. This program offers the following:

Caregiving counseling, education and referral

Crisis plan development

Facilitation of weekly respite care

Connection to monthly support groups

Partner agencies, including Thrive Alliance, use the collaborative dementia care model and training interventions developed by the IU Center for Aging Research. These techniques are proven to reduce caregiver stress and improve quality of life for both those with dementia and their caregivers.

Participants with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (ADRD) and their caregivers will receive coaching from dementia care coordinator assistants, and in-home personal care workers will receive specialized training in dementia care.

Gorski-Kimrey said that as part of this dementia intervention program, Thrive Alliance will have a list of all the dementia clients in the following counties: Bartholomew, Jennings, Jackson, Decatur and Brown. Then they’ll work on creating “caregiver stress prevention bundles.”

“We’re going to assess the caregiver and the client and see their needs and wants and see how we can relieve some of the stress for the caregiver,” she said. She also noted that Thrive Alliance will contact the clients every two weeks and do an assessment every 90 days.

“We’re going to have weekly meetings with IU Health and present our client caseload to them,” she added.

Gorski-Kimrey said she’ll also be providing individuals with community resources and be in touch with the Alzheimer’s Association, which has online classes.

Her new position as dementia care coach supports other dementia-related programs implemented by Thrive Alliance. These include the Dementia Friends Indiana, Music and Memory and the Robotic Pet Program.

Gorsk-Kimrey added that another helpful program for the elderly is the monthly Senior Virtual Café events held in partnership with the Bartholomew County Public Library.

Thrive Alliance estimates that by the end of 2020, 17 percent of Indiana residents would be 65 years old or more, and more than 110,000 of these individuals could have ADRD.

Gorski-Kimrey offered the following advice for interacting with individuals who have Alzheimer’s or dementia:

Remember that when the person repeats themselves, they’re not aware that they are doing so.

Do not argue with them; instead, try redirecting the conversation.

Avoid criticizing them.

Try not to interrupt with statements such as “Well you remember that, don’t you?”

Use direct statements.

Speak to the person, not “around” the person. Making eye contact helps with this.

“Be patient, be supporting,” she said. “Always just try to listen and understand them and show that you care about them.”

Gorski-Kimrey currently lives in Franklin, but grew up in Columbus and graduated from Columbus North High School. She was in the Army National Guard for six years at the Shelbyville armory. She has a degree in human services and began her college education at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College near Terre Haute. Then, after two deployments, she finished her degree at Indiana Tech.