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1989 Recipient - Mrs. Virginia Marsh Bell

Civic Leader and Philanthropist

Virginia Bell, MSW is currently the Program Consultant for the Greater Kentucky and the Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. She received her MSW from the University of Kentucky in 1982 and her BA from Transylvania University, Lexington, KY in 1944.

Virginia has lectured widely on Alzheimer's disease at national and international conferences, speaking at ten National Education Conferences of the Alzheimer's Association and lecturing at the last sixteen conferences of Alzheimer's Disease International.

She has published journal articles and book chapters, notably in Dementia Care: Patient, Family and Community (Johns Hopkins, 1989). The articles, "The Alzheimer's Disease Bill of Rights" (1994), "The Other Face of Alzheimer's Disease" (1999), and "Spirituality and the Person with Dementia" (2001), co-authored with David Troxel and published in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and the Alzheimer's Care Quarterly, have been widely reprinted.

She also co-authored four books with David Troxel:

  • The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care (1997)
  • The Best Friends Staff: Building a Culture of Care in Alzheimer's Programs (2001)
  • an adaptation of the first book, especially for families, A Dignified Life: the Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer's Care (2002) and
  • The Best Friends Book of Alzheimer's Activities: the Art of Being Together (2004).

Virginia's other experience in dementia was the University of Kentucky Alzheimer's Disease Research Center where she was a Family Counselor from 1982 - 1993. During this time, she helped establish a network of family services throughout Kentucky and Counseled hundreds of families as part of the University Memory Disorder Clinic.

She also has gained wide acclaim for her work in adult daycare, developing one of the first dementia-specific adult day programs in the country, the Best Friends Center. The day center is unique in its use of volunteers to offer a one-to-one volunteer/participant ratio. This program has won numerous awards and grants, including being funded as one of the first seventeen Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Respite Care and Dementia Services sites. In 1994, she won the prestigious Ruth Von Behren Award from the National Council on the Aging for the person who had done the most for adult daycare that year, and in 1999, she received the senior award from the American Society on Aging for her dedication to the significant contribution that older persons can make to society. She was recently inducted into the Social Work Hall of Fame and also received the honored Sullivan Award from the University of Kentucky in 2004.

Virginia retired from the University in 1993 to devote herself full-time as a volunteer in the day center and as a consultant for the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Alzheimer's Association. She continues to lecture widely about Alzheimer's care and volunteerism. She holds memberships in many professional organizations, including the American Society on Aging, the Gerontological Society of America, the Southern Gerontological Society, and the National Council on the Aging. She has served twice as a member of the Governor's Task Force on Alzheimer's disease for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.