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VA Black Hills Health Care System Caregiver Summit Slated for Sept. 21

BROOKINGS, S.D. -  Health care providers and professionals are invited to attend a joint effort of South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension and Department of Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System. The VA Black Hills Health Care System Caregiver Summit will be held Tuesday, Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to noon MT and will focus on inclusive care.

According to Kelly Kent, Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC) Support Coordinator with VA Black Hills Health Care System, the caregiver summit intends to bring VA and community partners together to join forces in an effort to create inclusive care as a standard of care. Integrating caregivers in the patient’s healthcare team can improve health outcomes, reduce costs and enhance healthcare professionals’ job satisfaction.

“The Campaign for Inclusive Care is a national joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to integrate caregivers into their Veteran’s healthcare team. Based on research from the RAND Corporation, it is believed that ‘the best chance for a wounded warrior to recover and thrive is having a strong, well-supported caregiver,’” Kent says, “However, many Veteran caregivers still feel disconnected and unsupported in the healthcare setting. The Campaign for Inclusive Care seeks to move from caregiver support to caregiver integration.”

The event aims to familiarize health care professionals with the unique needs of military and Veteran caregivers and how — through the practice of inclusive care — caregivers can be brought into the health care conversations and work more collaboratively with their loved one and his/her health care team.

“September is Suicide Prevention Month, so we will have a member of the VA Black Hills Suicide Prevention team present to discuss how to actively engage caregivers in suicide prevention,” Kent says. “The caregiver summit is also happening during Falls Prevention Awareness Week, and we will have education on falls prevention and the vital role of caregivers in preventing falls and injury.”

SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist Leacey Brown says fall risk among older adults is the result of a variety of factors that either increase or decrease fall risk. For example, routine exercise is known to reduce fall risk.

“People living with chronic disease (arthritis, depression, diabetes, etc.) are at greater risk of experiencing a first-time fall. Therefore, adults who receive these diagnoses need a fall risk assessment, such as the one available in the CDC STEADI toolkit,” Brown says. “However, a fall risk assessment isn’t enough. Once that is accomplished, most patients must implement quite a few changes in their life. These changes include diet restrictions, home modifications, physical therapy or exercises classes, medication changes and many more. The sheer magnitude of changes can overwhelm many patients into inaction. That’s why including caregivers in helping patients reduce fall risk is critical.”

The event will be streamed via Zoom, as well as held in-person at the SDSU West River Research and Extension Center, located at 711 N. Creek Drive in Rapid City.

The full program schedule is as follows:

  • 9 to 9:05 a.m. MT — Opening remarks, Dr. Brian Bowers, VA BHHCS Chief of Staff
  • 9:05 to 9:45 — Inclusive Care, Steve Deming, VA Caregiver Support Program Manager
  • 9:45 to 10:30 — Group activity (Small group case study discussion)
  • 10:30 to 10:45 — Break
  • 10:45 to 11:15 — Suicide Prevention Planning with Caregivers, Mark Urban, Suicide Prevention Outreach and Education
  • 11:15 to 11:45 — Fall Prevention Engaging Caregivers, Occupational Therapist TBD
  • 11:45 to noon — Wrap-up and closing remarks

Registration will open on Aug. 20. Please visit the SDSU Extension Events page to register and choose how you would like to attend. Registration closes Sept. 17.

Contact Brown for more information at or 605-394-1722.