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A pilot program between McLean’s Memory Disorders Assessment Clinic, part of the Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services, and the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire chapter, is being launched this month to help expedite care and resources to patients and their families.
Called the Dementia Care Coordination (DCC) program, made possible by the George Frederick Jewett Foundation East, this initiative will provide in-depth, personalized service for individuals and families who are facing decisions and challenges associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, according to Brooke Patterson, LSW, CDP, care consultant for the Alzheimer’s Association Massachusetts and New Hampshire chapter.
“The primary goal of the program is to help patients and their care partners become connected to the association early in the disease process, preferably at the time of diagnosis,” said Patterson. She and Debby Everin, care consultant with the Alzheimer’s Association, will be working 12 hours a week attending weekly rounds with clinicians at the clinic to determine which patients need services and care from the community once their diagnoses are made.
“With permission from the patients, we will follow up with them soon after they leave the clinic. This takes the burden off of them having to make the call to us,” said Patterson. “Having knowledge from the clinic about their specific diagnosis, symptoms, and needs will help us be more proactive in helping to ensure they get the services and resources needed as soon as possible.”
The care consultants will help families identify the available services in their community, such as elder service groups, adult day care, and home health care, as well as recommendations for legal and financial support. Families will also receive consumer guides on what to look for when selecting a service, as well as where to find educational resources and in-person and online support groups.
“The goal is for patients and families to develop an understanding of the dementia diagnosis, make a plan to maximize the independence of the person with memory loss, review available resources, and develop strategies for the best possible symptom management and communication,” said Patterson.
“We will also work with families to address such challenges as driving safety, supervision of the patient, medication management, agitation or aggressive behaviors, behavior management strategies, communication techniques, and caregiver support.”
Brent P. Forester, MD, MSc, chief of McLean’s Center of Excellence in Geriatric Psychiatry and medical director for Behavioral Health within Population Health Management at Partners HealthCare, said, “The opportunity for McLean Hospital to partner with the Alzheimer’s Association will help accelerate access to a wide range of services and programs for our patients. The need has never been more critical. Of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, an estimated 5.2 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65.”
“These numbers will escalate in the coming years as the baby boom generation begins to reach age 65 and beyond,” he said. “While we are making great strides in research and raising awareness, there’s a tremendous need to continually expand our reach to patients and families and connect them with the services they need.”
Patterson said that while most consultations will be conducted over the phone, the DCC team will also be able to arrange for in-person meetings with families at the Alzheimer’s Association’s office locations in Watertown, Worcester, Springfield, Raynham, or Bedford, New Hampshire.
“The Alzheimer’s Association is excited to be partnering with McLean Hospital,” she added. “The DCC program is a much-needed entryway to our services for so many patients and families.”
“McLean Hospital has historically been on the forefront of research in the field and advanced care for patients. It’s a partnership that really makes sense.”