TCU Partners with NCCDP to Bring Dementia Curriculum to Students and Community

Rethinking Dementia is a center at TCU founded by Michelle Kimzey. “Students want to do more, they want to do research and put what they are learning into practice.”
Michelle Kimzey PhD Nursing Director of Rethinking Dementia

Dr. Michelle Kimzey has a passion for dementia, and it shows. As an Associate Professor in Nursing at the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and Founder/Director of Rethinking Dementia at TCU, she has been researching, teaching and raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

In 2020, Michelle brought the Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) curriculum to TCU and began teaching a dementia elective for the nursing school, becoming the first university to offer a dementia elective. The CDP curriculum, typically an 8-hour standalone class, has been woven throughout the semester. As part of the elective, nurses can also become Certified Dementia Practitioners after taking the course. The curriculum has now been made available to all TCU students. While mostly taken by health sciences students, Michelle has also taught Business and Journalism students who share in her passion to learn more about dementia. Michelle trains approximately 75 students each year with the dementia-specific curriculum.

“I credit the students for their excitement, enthusiasm and empathy in advocating for dementia education and awareness”

The dementia elective came about as a need seen in hospital settings to educate nurses about dementia care. The goal is to train early to change the tide as these nurses go into hospitals and larger systems. It’s about making a difference by educating future providers to provide care for the growing number of people living with dementia. Dementia education is much needed and every student that has taken the course thinks that it should be a required course for all nursing students. Michelle agrees “I feel this wave of interest and need, and I’m finally starting to see it. As an educator, I believe everyone should go through this education and get all the certifications they can. All our students should at least get a lecture on dementia.” Michelle teaches the course with someone living with dementia and integrates speakers living with dementia. She commented “Co-teaching with someone living with dementia is priceless.” TCU now offers a second elective called Dementia in the Community, where students spend time in the field with people living with dementia in memory care and other settings.

Receiving CDP certification has been a great resource for students. It’s a great addition to their resumes and comes up often in job interviews as dementia affects so many people, but many are not aware of such a program. Not only can students become certified through the dementia elective, TCU’s student organization, dementia friendly TCU offers a full day certification program. Rethinking Dementia provides funding to pay for the program, certifications and even student renewals. “Students want it, and it’s exciting to be a part of students being engaged and wanting the dementia curriculum. They experience people living with dementia in their clinicals and want to increase the level of their knowledge.” Students typically renew and keep up their certifications with NCCDP, and rethinking dementia often pays for that. As a new healthcare provider, it’s easier to bridge conversations with health professionals when you have a certificate in Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care.

TCU has also partnered with the community to train outside of TCU in memory care communities, raising awareness about dementia education. The CDP seminar is offered twice per year to the wider community. They have even opened Nursing Camp opportunities at TCU for students looking to go into nursing and care for people with dementia. “Students often ask how they might be certified to enhance their future caregiving, and the difference in knowledge and awareness is palpable.”

“When I first started, no one knew anyone with dementia, or because of the stigma, they wouldn’t say anything. Now, 75% of students have personal experience with someone living with dementia. I’ve had more questions on how to provide caregiving for family members and friends caring for loved ones living with dementia than ever before.”

Rethinking Dementia is a center at TCU founded by Michelle. “Students want to do more, they want to do research and put what they are learning into practice.” Michelle started the center through donations and pays for CDP certifications, paid research assistants, partnering with student organizations for dementia awareness. The center has been a bridge to fund dementia education and research.

TCU is preparing to open a new Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Rethinking Dementia will become part of the Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases with endowed professors and branching into Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disease research in addition to dementia. The CDP curriculum will continue to be integrated in the new center. The training is a flexible tool that different audiences benefit from. The TCU Medical School will be a partner to do research.

Continuing to spread her positive message of dementia education, Michelle has partnered with Dementia Friendly Fort Worth. The UNT Health Science Center received a HRSA grant, and as part of that funding CDP curriculum will be offered to the wider community. The grant was just accepted so their work will begin to branch into the community. “We want to inspire a shift in the conversation about dementia and support people, local communities and organizations by equipping them with the tools and knowledge needed to make our society more dementia friendly.”

About the Author

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The NCCDP staff consists of a full team of experts in dementia care & education.