Providing top-notch care for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease is challenging enough for many state health care agencies, even without the disadvantage of serving a remote area with a widely scattered population.
That’s why the state of Alaska has turned to USC’s division of geriatric medicine for advice and guidance in serving seniors with cognitive disorders and dementia.
Since mid-April, teams of nursing home administrators and other state officials have begun visiting USC for in-depth training in policies and procedures relating to health issues facing cognitively-impaired seniors.
Loren G. Lipson, chief of the division of geriatric medicine and associate professor of medicine, gerontology and clinical pharmacy, said the goal of the program “is to improve communication about and knowledge of senior citizens who have problems with cognitive disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.
” Alaskan agencies sending representatives include: the state’s six Pioneer Homes, which mainly treat elderly with Alzheimer’s disease; the Mental Health Trust Authority; Adult Protective Services; the Alaska Psychiatric Institute; and CHOICE for the Elderly, a state-operated in-home health program.
Each team of four health care professionals stays for six days. During that time they visit the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, School of Medicine, University Hospital and several regional centers for the care of patients with dementia.
They also join discussions about new variations in assisted living, health care delivery for frail seniors and handling of special problems such as dementia, swallowing disorders and incontinence.
Lipson said the program will serve as a model to deliver cutting-edge information to agencies that serve small, rural populations and provide resources that would otherwise remain out of reach.
“The end result of the program will be direct improvement of sophistication of care for the individual resident of the Pioneer Homes and other long-term facilities where the frail, demented elderly live,” he said.
Eileen Montano, administrator of the Fairbanks Pioneers Home, praised the program, saying it provides a valuable source of information that can help improve the quality of life not only for patients, but their families as well.
“Alaska is quite isolated and sometimes even though you read the literature, you just wonder if there’s more you could be doing.
But this program is enriching and helpful. It’s made us feel very validated in what we’re doing.” she said.