Lisa Gwyther, MSW, LCSW, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, has received a 2019 Pioneer Award from the N.C. Coalition on Aging for her long-time contributions to the field of aging in North Carolina. Ms. Gwyther was presented the Award at the Coalition’s annual meeting in Raleigh on September 27.
In presenting the award to Ms. Gywther, Mary Bethel, Executive Director of the Coalition, noted that Ms. Gwyther was being recognized for her work and contributions for over four decades as a professional in the aging field. Bethel shared some of Ms. Gwyther’s accomplishments and contributions with the meeting participants, including the following:
- In her 40+ years of work at Duke in the Center for Aging, the Dementia Family Support Program and the Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Ms. Gwyther has made a lasting impact in the state and nationally for her ground breaking contributions in efforts to support individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementias and their families, and in caregiving advocacy, research and public policy.
- Ms. Gwyther was the founder and Director of the Duke Dementia Family Support Program, a nationally-recognized source for dementia information and services, from 1980 to 2018. Since July 2019, she has been working half-time for the Duke Dementia Family Support Program and Duke Psychiatry.
- In 1979, Ms. Gwyther originated "The Caregiver Newsletter," the oldest continuously published dementia focused caregiver newsletter in the world. This is distrbuted free of charge in North Carolina to family caregivers and others working with persons with dementia.
- For 25 years, Ms. Gwyther planned and lead the Duke Alzheimer’s Research Center’s North Carolina statewide conference for individuals living with dementia, family caregivers and health and human service professionals.
- In 2016, Ms. Gwyther co-chaired the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Task Force of the NC Institute of Medicine and the NC Department of Health and Human Services which resulted in the first Demential Capable North Carolina State Plan.
- Also on the state level, Ms. Gwyther was one of the primary architects of Project C.A.R.E. (Caregiver Alternatives to Running on Empty), currently the only North Carolina legislatively funded family consultant and respite care program for caregivers of persons living at home with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
- Ms. Gwyther has been involved in numerous other national and state advisory and advocacy initiatives that have led to dementia home and community based care programs applied across the globe and policies that support persons with dementia and their family caregivers. Her leadership as President of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) in 2008 resulted in programs and funding to encourage a more dementia capable work force. She has also worked with the National Alzheimer’s Association to guide policies for Alzheimer’s at the national level.
- Ms. Gwyther is one of two co-authors of the award winning book, The Alzheimer’s Action Plan: A Family Guide, which aids families in navigating questions arising in caring for a person with dementia.
In concluding her remarks, Bethel shared that those who know Ms. Gwyther are aware that she has spent countless hours working directly with people living with dementia and their families through hundreds of thousands of phone calls, in person consultations and e-mails as well as countless support group meetings. Bethel went on to note that Ms. Gwyther always has time for the one-on-one interactions that touch people on an individual basis, and those she talks with always receive the same thorough and compassionate assistance whether they are the first person or the 25th person she had talked to that day.
Joining Ms. Gwyther at the Awards presentation was her husband, Dr. Bob Gwyther.
About the NC Coalition on Aging: The Coalition is comprised of 73 agencies/organizations in the state that represent North Carolina’s aging population as well as individuals who support the work of the Coalition. Members of the Coalition work collaboratively to give voice to issues that affect older North Carolinians by facilitating networking and information exchange among members and providing the structure and leadership for collective advocacy, education, and public policy work.