Alzheimer’s Association launches new health systems initiative

DAYTON — The Alzheimer’s Association has launched a new health systems initiative aimed at facilitating and enhancing dementia care in the clinical setting.

Across the country, the Alzheimer’s Association is working to engage more than 300 health systems to offer proven solutions for improving health outcomes and more effectively managing the cost of care for people living with dementia.

“Our work with Ohio health systems and clinicians is two-fold,” said Joanne Pike, Dr.P.H., chief program officer, Alzheimer’s Association. “We want to support providers with strategies and solutions that can ensure quality care for people living with dementia, but we also want to better understand the needs of providers, so we can be an asset in helping them meet the complex care needs of individuals and families affected.”

Specifically, the new initiative will work with health systems and clinicians to achieve the following:

• Improve health outcomes — Facilitate timely and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, improve care management, and prevent complications among older adults with comorbid conditions.

• Enhance the clinical experience for people living with dementia and their caregivers—Ensure communication that provides educated answers and well-planned next steps, so that individuals and their families can access care services, make future financial plans and participate in clinical trials.

• Reduce the burden on clinicians — Empower clinicians with the training, resources and support to deliver a difficult diagnosis and provide follow-up care through an interdisciplinary approach that optimizes the roles of the clinician and other members of the health care team.

• Manage cost of care more effectively — Work with health systems and clinicians to enhance disease management following a diagnosis, including strategies that can prevent or reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

Amy Boehm, health systems director for the Alzheimer’s Association in Ohio, said she has been talking with health systems to first understand what their goals are and what challenges they have dealing with an aging population. Ohio is on the brink of a demographic shift where seniors will outnumber those 18 and younger. With one in three seniors living with dementia, the 220,000 Ohioans living with Alzheimer’s and dementia is expected to grow by more than 20 percent in the next five years.

“How can we ensure that people are assessed in a timely fashion,” Boehm said. “We have a cognitive assessment tool kit…we want to make sure that once people are assessed, they are given a well-developed roadmap.”

Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the United States. In 2019, total payments for caring for Americans age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will surpass a quarter of a trillion dollars ($290 billion). Studies have shown that early diagnosis and proper management of Alzheimer’s and other dementias can improve health outcomes and reduce costs.

“Dementia care is complex and expensive,” Pike said. “There are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and that number is rising. We want to work with health systems and clinicians to meet this growing demand by ensuring people living with dementia have high-quality, patient-centered care and that their care is managed efficiently and cost-effectively.”