A Holistic Approach to Care Can Improve Quality of Life The medical profession is preparing for the unprecedented number of people predicted to be living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias over the next two decades. And those on the frontlines assisting families and their loved ones also need to look closely at care strategies. Researchers work relentlessly to find a cure while those on the forefront of care have begun to look at something else — quality of life. While kindness, compassion, and safety are foundational to dementia care, behavioral therapies and interactive opportunities for those living with dementia are now seen as equally important parts of a care plan. The impact of music, for example, or art classes or pet therapy, have brought a vitality to seniors that previous care strategies didn’t always manage to do. Professionals working in senior care continue to find new ways to understand barriers people are facing. Trainings and certifications provide comprehensive maps for assisting people living with dementia to live a more holistic existence, far beyond the isolation and stigma that are commonly experienced. Marcy Baskin, Managing Director, Senior Care Authority
How to Avoid an Impending Crisis in Dementia Care According to a recent survey, primary care physicians worry about the medical profession’s ability to meet increased demand for dementia care in the United States. But there are steps we can take to change this.
There are currently more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to reach nearly 14 million by 2050 unless new treatments are advanced. With more seniors aging into the greatest risk category for developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias every day, there are growing concerns that the medical profession may not be ready to care for them. A recent Alzheimer’s Association survey of primary care physicians (PCPs) found nearly 87 percent of PCPs expect to see an increase in people living with dementia during
the next five years, but half say the medical profession is not prepared to meet this demand. Specifically, 82 percent of PCPs say they are on the frontlines of providing dementia care, but not all are confident in their care for patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias; nearly 39 percent report they are “never” or only “sometimes comfortable” making a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementias, nearly one-third report they are “never” or only “sometimes comfortable” answering patient questions about Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and 22 percent of all PCPs had no residency training in dementia diagnosis and care. Of the 78 percent who did undergo training, 65 percent reported that the amount was “very little.” We’re heading toward a medical emergency, wherein dementia care will not be available for all who need it. To avoid the impending
crisis, we must work to increase the number of dementia care specialists, while also ensuring dementia care education, training, and ongoing learning opportunities are available for primary care physicians. Creating incentives and career pathways to recruit and retain healthcare professionals who specialize in gerontology, geriatrics, and dementia care is one such step. The report also recommends expanding collaborative and coordinated care models that use “teams” comprised of physicians, nurses, social workers, and other allied health professionals to provide dementia care. We can increase educational funding to augment the number of providers available to diagnose and treat those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, we can build dementia care expertise and capacity in primary care, and we can identify gaps in current dementia care education and training by making dementia care training and CME more accessible for primary care physicians. Advancing these and other needed solutions will help ensure timely, high-quality dementia care is available for all who need it. n Joanne Pike, CEO, Alzheimer’s Association
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