Wayne State awarded nearly $1 million from Michigan Health Endowment Fund

Awards will support older adult caregiver programs.

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund has awarded nearly $1 million to two Wayne State University programs that protect and enhance the well-being of our area's older adults and caregivers.

The Health Fund granted $413,903 to Dr. Peter Lichtenberg's program, SAFE: Caregiver Empowerment, and $500,000 to the Michigan Development Disabilities Institute (MI-DDI) for its program, Michigan Older Caregivers of Emerging Adults with Autism and other Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (MI-OCEAN) Family Support Project.

"Through these grants, Wayne State is supporting two underserved groups of caregivers: those who take on financial responsibilities without any experience or training, and those who care for older adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities," said Health Fund Program Officer Tim Niyonsenga. "Both of these projects address an important gap in available resources, and will help grow a stronger caregiving culture in the region and potentially throughout Michigan."

The SAFE: Caregiver Empowerment program supports caregivers by offering tailored online education, financial workshops and one-on-one services to help them manage the finances of older adults. For many caregivers, having to manage the finances for the older adults in their lives can be an overwhelming task that takes a toll psychologically and emotionally. The SAFE: Caregiver Empowerment aims to ease the burden, said Lichtenberg, who is also director of Wayne State's Institute of Gerontology.

"The new SAFE: Caregiver Empowerment grant will allow us to use 'hi-tech' (web-based) and 'hi-touch' (face-to-face education) methods to educate caregivers about their care recipient's financial safety, including how to hold sensitive conversations, detect money mismanagement and how to properly manage another's money," he said. "We will also provide financial coaching for caregivers who desire it."

The MI-OCEAN Family Support Project will use its Health Fund grant to help create a supportive network of older adults who are family caregivers to adults with autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental developmental disabilities. This unique combination of education and peer support will bolster older adults who are trying to balance their own age-related issues while caring for adults with autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities.

"Aging family caregivers of emerging adults with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders face uniquely challenging demands," said MI-DDI Director Dr. Sharon Milberger. "MI-OCEAN aims to improve the health and well-being of this underserved population of aging caregivers by empowering them through peer-to-peer support and system change. We are so grateful to the Michigan Health Endowment Fund for the opportunity to positively impact this growing group of aging caregivers."

The grants were part of $14 million the Health Fund recently awarded through two programs: Healthy Aging and Special Projects & Emerging Ideas. As part of an ongoing partnership around caregiving, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation provided $1 million to support caregiver-focused projects in Southeast Michigan.

For more information on the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, please visit mhealthfund.com.

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