November marks National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and I think we can all agree that there is still a long way to go to combat this horrific disease.
This year, the Alzheimer’s Association is urging families to be proactive about the difficult but critically important conversations that must take place when a loved one begins to show the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease or some other form. of dementia. And the organization is partnering with the Ad Council on the ‘Hopeful Together’ campaign, which promotes the benefits that can come from treatment and support with early diagnosis, including giving patients and caregivers. family members have time to plan together and make critical medical, legal and financial decisions.
Of course, families need to see the warning signs in order to start these difficult conversations with their loved ones. Some of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include: memory loss affecting daily life; challenges in planning or solving problems; difficulty performing rudimentary tasks; confusion with time or place; vision and balance problems; difficulty speaking or writing; misplace things; bad judgment; withdrawal from work or socialization and changes in mood and personality.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 50 million people worldwide are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. In the United States, more than 6 million people aged 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease, although less than half have been officially diagnosed. One in three older people die of Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia, more than breast and prostate cancer combined. Meanwhile, more than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
As we know, Alzheimer’s disease is terribly traumatic for both patients and their families. However, real developments are underway in terms of research and treatment, including here at the Wright Center for Community Health, which now offers clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, assessment and individualized care plans. that can be shared with a patient’s primary care physician. .
Based on the award-winning model established at UCLA, our Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Program is designed to help patients and families with the complex medical, behavioral and social needs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. other types of dementia. At the heart of the program is a dedicated, first-class team of geriatricians, advanced practitioners and dementia care specialists who follow a co-management model who work closely with primary care physicians and / or referring physicians. to ensure that care is comprehensive and coordinated for both the patient and family members / caregivers.
The program has several basic elements, including a 90-minute in-person visit with a dementia care specialist; a personalized care plan drawn up with the main / referring doctor; follow-up phone calls and / or in-person visits to ensure the plan is implemented or modified as needed; 24/7, 365 days a year access to caregivers for help and advice to avoid emergency department visits and hospitalizations and continuous monitoring of patients with at least one in-person visit per year to ensure ongoing and emerging needs are met.
We certainly have a long way to go to achieve real success in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Nonetheless, we as healthcare providers are committed to ensuring that patients receive exemplary care and that caregivers are provided with all the tools and support they will need to get through this very difficult experience.
Jignesh Y. Sheth, MD, a dual-board certified primary care physician in internal medicine and addiction medicine, heads the Wright Center for Community Health as chief medical officer and is senior vice president of clinical operations for the Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education. He sees patients at the Wright Center’s Jermyn practice and lives with his family at Clarks Summit. Send your medical questions to [email protected]