1 jun, 2023

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

It is estimated that there are currently 6.7 million Americans aged 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, and this number is expected to rise as the size of this age group grows. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for loss of memory and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, it is important to support those who are impacted and raise awareness throughout our community.

10 early signs/symptoms of Alzheimer’s:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life – forgetting recently learned information, important dates/events, or asking the same questions over and over
  2. Changes in one’s ability to follow a plan or solve a problem
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Losing track of dates/times; forgetting where you are or how you got there
  5. Difficulty with visual and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with speaking/writing – trouble following or joining a conversation, inability to finish a sentence, struggling with vocabulary
  7. Misplacing and/or losing items
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality – confusion, becoming suspicious, depression, fear, anxiety

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s and the importance of early detection

Physicians may use several tools to help diagnose Alzheimer’s, which include but are not limited to reviewing a patient’s medical history, completing a mental status exam, neuropsychological testing, brain imaging, blood tests, etc.

Early detection can lead to greater access to treatment options and the opportunity to participate in clinical medication trials, and can lessen one’s anxiety around the diagnosis, help a patient to plan for the future, and save costs in the long term.

It is especially important to acknowledge the caregivers for this population, as over 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for individuals with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Some additional facts:

  • About 30% of caregivers are age 65 or older.
  • Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women.
  • Approximately one-quarter of caregivers are “sandwich generation" caregivers –meaning that they care not only for an aging parent but also for at least one child.
  • 41% of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
  • Between 2020 and 2030, it is estimated that an additional 1.2 million direct care workers will be needed to care for the growing population of people living with dementia –this is the largest worker gap in the U.S.

Source: alz.org

BCBSRI Behavioral health program highlight: Programa de coordinación de la atención de la demencia

The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting families and professionals and working to find effective treatments and a cure for Alzheimer’s.  Rhode Island is one of more than 70 chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association throughout the nation.

The Dementia Care Coordination Program, administered in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association and a health system, is an evidence-informed intervention based on a VA demonstration study that showed improved outcomes and decreased utilization. The program is designed to assist caregivers by providing them with strategies and resources to increase their success in caring for their loved ones.

Referrals to the Dementia Care Coordination Program are typically initiated by a health system’s care managers and can be made securely to the Alzheimer’s Association via fax, email, or HIPAA-compliant online form. A master’s level social worker (a memory specialist) will make an outreach call to the family caregiver within 5-7 days from the date of the referral to schedule a personalized, hour-long care consultation. A written care plan is sent to the caregiver and a summary is sent to the referrer. The full program lasts for approximately six months. A total of three calls are made to the caregiver during this six-month timeframe to assess progress and to provide resources as needed.

As part of the program, the health system has access to a full range of programs and services, an opportunity for co-branding and marketing, family and caregiver education programs by Chapter staff, educational sessions for healthcare professionals, and customer service training for non-clinical staff. The caregiver also has access to the Alzheimer’s Association 24-hour crisis line (1-800-272-3900), and online resources. Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Association will share outcomes and utilization data from the program with the health system as it relates to caregivers’ program satisfaction, clinician satisfaction, and self-reported caregiver efficacy following program engagement. 

For more information, please contact Monica Ross at behavioralhealth@bcbsri.org.

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