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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | December 29, 2009

Dementia Care Professionals of America Names North Carolina Adult Day Coordinator 2009 ‘Dementia Care Professional of the Year’  

NEW YORK, NY—From escorting two elderly clients who could no longer drive on a “date” to joining other volunteers in caring for an ill individual with Alzheimer’s disease at an adult day center over a weekend—each on her own time, professional Karen Bridges goes the extra mile for the people she cares for professionally as well as in her personal life.

It’s that kind of dedication that prompted Dementia Care Professionals of America (DCPA) to recently name Bridges of Shelby, NC the 2009 “Dementia Care Professional of the Year.”

Bridges, a licensed practical nurse, has worked with individuals and families affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses for the past 35 years. Currently, she serves as healthcare coordinator and center coordinator at an adult day center in Shelby, NC that is operated by Life Enrichment Center Adult Day Care and Health Service.

DCPA, a training, qualification and membership division of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), makes the award annually to recognize an individual who has demonstrated professional excellence in care, compassionate performance that exceeds expectations, and a dedicated commitment to people diagnosed with dementia. DCPA introduced the award in 2007.

In announcing the 2009 recipient today, Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and CEO, said this year’s winner could not be more deserving.

“It is obvious that Karen Bridges has a special place in her heart for people with Alzheimer’s disease and has taken this passion to the nth degree to provide optimal care to these individuals,” Hall said. “Her professionalism and dedication serve as a shining example for others.”

Bridges, who was unaware that she was even nominated for the award, said she was “caught off guard” but extremely honored when she learned of her designation.

“I love what I do,” she said. “It’s very rewarding. It’s much more what [the individuals with dementia] do for you than what you do for them. You go home feeling you made a difference in the participant’s life and the family’s life.”

In nominating her co-worker, Linda Cabiness, a community outreach coordinator at the adult day center, noted that Bridges provides extraordinary service to clients, makes a positive impact on families and colleagues, and inspires the staff by example.

“She goes far beyond what is required during her daily shift, spending her own time, money and resources helping the participants and their families at home,” Cabiness said.

Among her many undertakings, Bridges created and implemented a program to increase food intake and make meals more pleasurable for individuals with dementia, and regularly counsels families—“listening to sobbing wives, counseling feuding siblings, intervening with physicians, finding the appropriate services for confused older adults,” Cabiness said. “She never checks her watch if a family member comes in needing to talk. She has visited in homes at night and waited with families in the emergency rooms on weekends.”

Even when Bridges became a caregiver for her spouse and parents during the past five years, her dedication to her clients remained intact. Despite exhaustion, Cabiness said, “Her smile was in place and her attitude showed her love for the participants and their family caregivers. Her personal experiences only enhance her professional compassion for others.”

Applications for the 2010 Dementia Care Professional of the Year are due September 1, 2010. Nominees do not have to be members of DCPA or affiliated with AFA.

The award is part of DCPA’s overall efforts to raise the bar on care and the status of dementia care professionals through training, continuing education, networking and qualification as AFA Dementia Care Providers and AFA Dementia Care Specialists. DCPA has trained and qualified about 4,000 professionals involved in all levels of dementia care. For more information, visit or call 866-AFA-8484.

Currently, as many as 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which causes loss of memory and other intellectual functions, and is the most common form of dementia. With age the greatest known risk factor, the incidence of the disease doubles every five years between 65 and 95.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a nonprofit organization based in New York City that focuses on providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, and their families, and unites 1,200 member organizations nationwide that provide hands-on programs. AFA’s services include a toll-free helpline with counseling by licensed social workers, a free caregiver magazine, professional training and qualification, and standards of excellence for dementia care settings. For information, call 866-AFA-8484 or visit

Contact: Carol Steinberg
Phone: 866-AFA-8484


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