Pilot Program Connects Alzheimer’s Experts With Assisted Living Communities

Sherry Christiansen
By Sherry ChristiansenDecember 28, 2018

As the average lifespan increases, so too does the prevalence of age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s. This leads to an increase in the need for assisted living and memory care communities to care for the growing number of seniors with the disease today.

Learn more about how the Alzheimer’s Association is meeting that need by launching a pilot program aimed at connecting Alzheimer’s experts with assisted living communities to improve care for residents with the disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Pilot Program

The Alzheimer’s Association’s innovative pilot program was modeled after a telementoring program called Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), which utilizes online video conferencing to share information.

The new six-month program will link experts in Alzheimer’s care with assisted living leaders and staff across the United States and teach them about how to provide “high-quality, person-centered Alzheimer’s care in community-based settings.”

Morgan Daven, Senior Director of Health Systems at the Alzheimer’s Association, says of the program:

“The Alzheimer’s Association is excited about leveraging the ECHO model. It allows us to create an ongoing dialogue between Alzheimer’s care experts and those on the front lines providing care to individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Project ECHO provides not only an opportunity for Alzheimer’s experts to share their insights, but also a forum to explore real case studies from the field to better address the common challenges facing communities providing Alzheimer’s care.”

Project ECHO was initially designed in 2003 at the University of New Mexico. Initially, the program was developed with a goal of training health care providers in rural areas on how to treat patients with Hepatitis C. Studies later discovered that the patients who were treated through the telementoring program received care equal to those who had been seen by University doctors — who were specialists in their respective fields of practice.

Since the inception of the program, Project ECHO has been utilized to treat patients in many remote locations, in need of various medical specialties, such as chronic pain, endocrinology, HIV, tuberculosis and more.

How Alzheimer’s Experts Connect With Assisted Living Communities

The Alzheimer’s Association’s pilot project will be the very first application of Project ECHO to improve the quality of care for people in assisted living and memory care communities.

“The ECHO model has a proven track record of success,” Daven says. “It will enable us to disseminate the latest and greatest… recommendations for Alzheimer’s care to communities in a timely and efficient manner. Communities will be able to use this information to improve care for people living with the disease. Ultimately, we would like to expand this pilot program across the country.”

Project ECHO is currently a six-month pilot program, made up of 12 hour-long presentations. The content in the sessions is comprised of topic areas put forth by the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Dementia Care Practice Recommendations” — which encourage person-centered care.

The key topics that will be addressed in the pilot program include:

  1. Building and supporting the workforce.
  2. Co-morbidities and medical management for nonphysicians.
  3. Detection and diagnosis for nonphysicians.
  4. Education, information and support needs of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and caregivers.
  5. Evaluating person-centered practices.
  6. Evidence-based nonpharmacological practices.
  7. Fundamentals of person-centered Alzheimer’s care.
  8. Interventions for transitions in care.
  9. Person-centered assessment and care planning.
  10. Progressive support for activities of daily living (ADLs).
  11. Supportive and therapeutic environments.

There will be 16 assisted living communities involved in the initial pilot and there is also a companion pilot program being launched for health care providers. The companion program is aimed at helping the primary care providers improve diagnostics, supportive care and the treatment of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Programs such as Project ECHO represent some of the newest cutting-edge educational programs aimed at trying to improve the care and overall treatment of people with Alzheimer’s.

Hopefully, it’s a step in the right direction for assisted living and health care providers across the country who are joining the efforts of millions of Alzheimer’s experts and professionals, committed to improving the quality of life for people with the disease.

Do you think Alzheimer’s experts and assisted living communities should have more interaction and should this pilot program be expanded to senior living communities across the U.S.? Why or why not? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Sherry Christiansen

Sherry Christiansen

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