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 New Program Connects Dementia Experts and Assisted Living Communities

In an effort to bring more expertise on dementia care to the facility-level, the Alzheimer’s Association announced it is undertaking a new pilot program to enhance the care people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias receive in assisted living communities. 

The program is modeled after Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), the  “telementoring” program that uses videoconferencing technology to share information. The six-month pilot will connect dementia care experts with leaders from assisted living communities by combining bi-weekly presentations with interactive case studies to promote person-centered, high quality dementia care in community-based settings.

Morgan Daven, senior director, health systems, Alzheimer’s Association, said the ECHO model “allows us to create an ongoing dialogue between dementia care experts and those on the front lines providing care to individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.” The program will not only provide an opportunity for dementia experts to share their insights, but also act as a forum to explore real case studies from the field to better address the common challenges facing communities providing dementia care, he said.

Project ECHO originated at the University on New Mexico in 2003 and was first used to train primary care clinicians in rural communities to treat patients with hepatitis C. The model has subsequently been used to educate providers and improve care for other complex conditions, including: HIV, tuberculosis, chronic pain, endocrinology, and behavioral health disorders. 

Daven said the new pilot will be one of the first models used to improve quality dementia care in long term and community-based settings.

The six-month pilot program will consist of 12 sixty-minute sessions. The material is designed specifically for leaders and staff from assisted living communities and the content will cover the Alzheimer’s Association Dementia Care Practice Recommendations released earlier this year. 

Key topics will address the fundamentals of person-centered dementia care, detection and diagnosis for nonphysicians, person-centered assessment and care planning, co-morbidities and medical management for nonphysicians, information, education and support needs of individuals living with dementia and caregivers, and evidence-based nonpharmacological practices.

Other areas will center on progressive support for activities of daily living, building and supporting the workforce, supportive and therapeutic environments, interventions for transitions in care, and evaluating person-centered practices.

The Alzheimer’s Association is partnering with the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) to evaluate the initial pilot. NYAM created the first-ever evaluation toolkit and resource guide for users of the ECHO model in 2016. The evaluation will assess key areas including process, impact and sustainability. The Alzheimer’s Association will use the evaluation to inform and enhance future offerings of the program.

Read more on the program at www.alz.org.
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