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Alzheimer's Association Chapters Collaborate With Medical Centers And Health Systems To Increase Early Detection, Service Use And Decrease Costs

BOSTON, July 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Four programs featured at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference ® 2013 (AAIC ® 2013) in Boston are making important efforts to improve early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and increase the use of information and support services. Alzheimer's Association chapters are leaders and/or key players in these collaborative efforts with health systems, health care providers, universities and government agencies.

"Research shows that families and caregivers who learn about the course of Alzheimer's disease, and who take advantage of support and respite, often cope much better with the changes that come their way during the Alzheimer's disease process," said Beth Kallmyer, MSW, vice president of constituent services at the Alzheimer's Association.

According to the Alzheimer's Association 2013 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer's may nearly triple. Yet too many people with Alzheimer's or another dementia are undiagnosed — as many as 50 percent, according to some studies.

"The number of people with Alzheimer's is projected to rise significantly as more and more people reach the age of greatest risk for developing the disease," said Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association vice president of medical and scientific relations. "The huge number of undiagnosed cases reflects the pervasive fear about Alzheimer's, yet it also means that more people could benefit from support and information provided by the Alzheimer's Association. We hope these four programs can serve as models for implementation in other communities."

San Francisco Dementia Support Network Improves the Knowledge and Skills of Caregivers

The growing population of older adults in the San Francisco Bay Area is projected to increase the number of people with dementia in the region by 61 percent between 2000 and 2030. According the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services' 2009 "Strategy for Excellence In Dementia Care," San Franciscans with Alzheimer's or another dementia are more vulnerable than the general population of seniors in the U.S. because they are more likely to be members of racial or ethnic minority groups, born in another country, speak different languages, live in poverty or live alone.

Elizabeth Edgerly, Ph.D., chief program officer of the Alzheimer's Association Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter, added that support for people with dementia is often the responsibility of family caregivers, and that caregiving is time consuming, difficult and makes it very hard to participate in activities that protect and preserve the caregivers' own health and security.

San Francisco is the only city in the United States with a strategic plan for addressing dementia. The San Francisco Dementia Support Network is a partnership between the University of California, San Francisco; the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services; the Alzheimer's Association Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter; and Kaiser Permanente San Francisco (KPSF). The Dementia Support Network provides a multi-faceted approach to improve the knowledge and skills of caregivers during times of medical, functional or caregiving crises.

Four major efforts were undertaken:

  • Improve capacity within KPSF to provide education and support to families and caregivers of members with Alzheimer's.
  • Proactively connect the caregivers of KPSF members with Alzheimer's to community-based sources of education and support, including the Alzheimer's Association.
  • Develop an electronic dementia care plan to improve the quality of care.
  • Educate providers and staff at KPSF in best practices.

The program uses education services and a full-time social worker — a Dementia Care Expert. The six-month intervention aims to decrease preventable emergency room visits and/or hospitalizations and increase utilization of community-based services by caregivers. Importantly, the Dementia Care Expert had access to a pool of grants for respite care administered by the Alzheimer's Association Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter, which allowed the family to purchase needed services (e.g., home health care). The University of California, San Francisco, collected data on project effectiveness through pre/post-test evaluations, and medical service utilization data from patient medical records.

At AAIC 2013, Edgerly reported that 105 patient and caregiver partners have been enrolled and participant demographics are highly diverse. Post-test evaluations are ongoing; a comprehensive data analysis will be conducted. One outcome of the project has been amending the electronic health records at Kaiser San Francisco to include caregiver information in the patient's Alzheimer's disease care plan.

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