Nearly five years after launching a Cognitive Assessment Clinic for people with memory loss and other signs of dementia, clinicians at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center report their efforts are helping improve patient access to community resources and reducing caregiver stress.
The clinic is also strengthening relationships between primary care physicians (PCPs) and providers who specialize in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This ensures that patients receive abundant, well-coordinated support from a team of experts who collaborate on their long-term care plans.
Early intervention allows for planning and preparedness
Although there are key differences between age-related memory changes and dementia, patients and their family members are often unsure how to distinguish between the two — and may feel unsure about what to do next.
“We perform thorough assessments to pinpoint why older adults are experiencing forgetfulness or depression,” Dr. Li says. “Not only can we confirm whether their symptoms are a sign of something serious like Alzheimer’s, we can help patients and their loved ones access the tools they need to cope with their diagnosis, get help and plan for the future.”
A comprehensive, collaborative approach
The Cognitive Assessment Clinic is staffed by board certified geriatricians, clinical pharmacists, social workers and registered nurses. In addition to testing patients’ mental functions, team members:
- Review current medications
- Consider the patient’s home environment and daily living conditions
- Provide recommendations for community resources such as transportation assistance, adult day care, home health care or caregiver support groups
The cognitive assessment team works closely with patients’ PCPs or other referring providers. Nurse case managers from the clinic also offer follow-up calls to ensure patients and family members continue to get the care and support they need.
“The earlier we can identify dementia, the more time people have to adjust and make care decisions,” Dr. Li says. “Ultimately, connecting patients and caregivers with the resources they’ll need to manage dementia can help ensure better quality of life as the disease progresses.”