GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – More than 110,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in Tennessee. Sometimes knowing the early signs and symptoms can be difficult.

Grant money at Walters State Community College hopes to change that. Walters State received a $350,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Health. It will be used to train certified nursing assistants in East Tennessee nursing homes, so they can help improve care for those living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

The training for CNAs will come through the CARES Dementia Specialist Program, a credentialing program that will provide them with 33 hours of specialized training in care for those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Walters State Community College will provide in-house training at nursing homes in 10 East Tennessee counties.

“They must be CNAs that are employed in a nursing home,” said Non-Credit Allied Health Programs Coordinator Dr. Linda Helms, who also is the grant project director.

The community college will also partner with area high schools, giving them a $2,500 stipend for the college to use its computer labs.

Dr. Nelms said that portion of the training will be online and last five or six weeks, two nights a week.

“This is going to be very comprehensive, it’s not an easy training for the CNAs,” she said. “They will benefit from it.”

Life Care Center of Greeneville was one of the sponsors for the grant and will be one of the area service providers benefiting from this new credentialing program.

“I think the initiative is excellent,” said Misty Key, Senior Executive Director at Life Care Center of Greeneville. “Anytime that we can improve services for my patients, my staff, that’s definitely the commitment we want to give.”

Training will be provided at no cost to the certified nursing assistants participating.

With Alzheimer’s and dementia affecting a number of Tennesseans, Dr. Nelms believes this specialized training will help Walters State continue to impact its surrounding community and its area caregivers.

“Not only coping as a caregiver, but also economically it may help them,” said Dr. Nelms.

Walters State will start implementing training in Hancock County at the end of January.

Greene and Hawkins counties will start implementing their training in October.