San Antonio now a Dementia Friendly City

Group of nine people
Partners in the Dementia Friendly City initiative include the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing's Caring for the Caregiver program, City of San Antonio, University Health System, Bexar County Sheriff's Department and San Antonio and South Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

SAN ANTONIO (June 15, 2019) ― The School of Nursing at UT Health San Antonio announced today that San Antonio has been named a Dementia Friendly City by Dementia Friendly America.

Jacqueline M. McGrath, Ph.D., RN, FNAP, FAAN, vice dean for faculty excellence in the School of Nursing, made the announcement during the 9th Annual Geriatric Conference, “Building Partnerships for Geriatric Care,” held June 14-15. The conference brought together health care providers, researchers, community organizations, governmental agencies and families to discuss Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as resources needed by caregivers in the community.

“We are proud to have a hand in bringing the Dementia Friendly designation to San Antonio, along with many strong partners such as University Health System, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, the City of San Antonio, the Alzheimer’s Association and many others. As nurse leaders, our mission is to improve health and health care through education, research, practice and community engagement. This gathering is a great example of how we can all work together to better understand the needs of community members with dementia and their caregivers. This is important as we initiate research to improve care, provide new resources and educate health care providers for the future,” Dr. McGrath said.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association and the Texas Department of State Health Services:

  • In 2019, 5.8 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s disease. This includes 200,000 people younger than age of 65.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. with an economic burden of $290 billion.
  • Texas ranks fourth nationally, with 390,000 individuals living with Alzheimer’s. The state is second in the number of Alzheimer’s-related deaths, with a 180% increase between 2000 and 2015.
  • Hispanics are about 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia, making San Antonio and South Texas particularly vulnerable to this disease.
  • Nationally, more than 16.2 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, including 1.4 million unpaid caregivers in Texas.
  • In the U.S., unpaid caregivers provide an estimated 18.5 billion hours of care each year, valued at nearly $234 billion.
  • In Texas 1.4 million unpaid caregivers provided care to Texans with Alzheimer’s disease in 2018. This equals 1.6 billion hours of unpaid care at approximately $20.6 billion per year.

The Dementia Friendly City designation recognizes that San Antonio has a grassroots initiative in place, led by an advisory board of committed stakeholders. San Antonio is the third city in Texas with this designation, along with Fort Worth and Tyler.

The School of Nursing’s Caring for the Caregiver program is championing the Dementia Friendly initiative, along two other major stakeholders: University Health System and the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. These three key stakeholders are committed to raising awareness, offering education and training, conducting research and initiating policy changes to support Dementia Friendly San Antonio.

Tommye Austin, senior vice president and chief nurse executive of University Health System, said in a statement: “University Health System is the first dementia-friendly health care system in Texas. We are leading the way as San Antonio’s population grows and our community ages. We are providing training to our acute care nurses that will enable them to recognize signs of dementia and support families while their loved ones are hospitalized. University Health System is promoting a dementia-friendly culture by collaborating with community partners to educate families about dementia and provide resources for caregivers.”

In collaboration with the School of Nursing, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office is providing training for officers on how to recognize dementia and provide appropriate service to those community members and their families. The Sheriff’s Office also has initiated a vehicle sticker program for families living with Alzheimer’s to help officers recognize that a person with dementia may be on board. Sheriff Salazar said, “The Bexar County Sheriff’s Safety Sticker Program has been a success and is a program being utilized by many other law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. We are proud to have such strong relationships with our community partners to bring more awareness to this disease.”

The City of San Antonio, represented by District 7 City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval and District 8 Councilman Manny Paláez, also support this initiative.

Carole White, Ph.D., RN, director of the School of Nursing’s Caring for the Caregiver program, is leading the Dementia Friendly initiative. She received a $250,000 grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to include the voices of families living with dementia in the two-day “Building Partnerships in Geriatric Care” conference and support their involvement with the Dementia Friendly initiative. “If we want to improve care and provide better resources for individuals living with dementia and their caregivers, we need to encourage them to tell us what they need,” she said.

“We also are seeking community partners, such as churches or other organizations, to help us reach out to individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers to provide education and training,” she said, which is available through Caring for the Caregiver.

The Dementia Friendly City initiative began with a town hall attended by 250 people in October. Roundtable discussions helped identify the most pressing concerns:

  • Fear of patients and their family members about a dementia diagnosis,
  • Support, education and training for caregivers,
  • Education of medical professionals and community members about available resources,
  • Social opportunities for those with dementia and their caregivers, and
  • Training of law enforcement personal about the confusion and confrontation they may encounter with individuals who have dementia.

The Caring for the Caregiver program is affiliated with the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, which offers patient care, research, events and resources.

For more information about the Caring for the Caregiver program, call (210) 450-8715 or visit

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, now called UT Health San Antonio®, is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities. With missions of teaching, research, healing and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced 36,500 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit


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