Comprehensive Memory Care Program Fills Vital Need
People with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia now have access in Rochester to comprehensive evaluation, care and support, thanks to a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. A multidisciplinary team of caregivers is staffing a new Memory Care Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
“Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are complex diseases that have a profound impact on both patients and their families,” said URMC neurologist Fred Marshall, M.D., medical director of the Memory Care Program (MCP). “Treatment requires a coordinated approach so that we can discover the best means of optimizing the quality of life for the patients and their families. This new program brings these necessary resources together into one program that provides comprehensive services.”
An estimated 26,000 people in the region suffer from progressive memory impairment or dementia, 18,000 of which are suspected to have Alzheimer’s disease. The incidence of Alzheimer’s is on the rise, with the number of cases expected to triple by 2050. Alzheimer’s and related dementias are especially burdensome to patients and families as individuals require increasing levels of daily care as their illness progresses.
Until now there has been no widely available, comprehensive diagnostic evaluation and follow-up clinical care for patients with memory disorders in the community.
The MCP consists of a team of neurologists, psychiatrists, a geriatrician, a neuropsychologist, a psychometrician, a social worker and a nurse practitioner. The team serves patients at URMC’s Neurology Clinics at Clinton Crossings and Strong Memorial Hospital, as well as the Psychiatry Department at Monroe Community Hospital. Together, they help patients and their families deal with the many dimensions of the disease and phases of treatment, beginning with an early and accurate diagnosis. The team meets regularly, provides diagnostic and longitudinal follow-up and supportive care, and offers access to clinical trials as appropriate.
In coordination and consultation with referring physicians, the MCP’s social worker helps guide patients and family members through the myriad of care decisions and connects them with community resources. The nurse practitioner conducts home visits in select cases. Patients return for follow-up visits on average every six months.
“Because dementia is a neurological disorder, a psychiatric disorder, and a progressive disorder that impacts a person’s level of function, it requires follow-up and flexibility on the part of the care team and family caregivers to evolve new strategies for coping with the disease as it progresses,” said Marshall.
One of the barriers to creating a comprehensive memory care program is that the cost of care often exceeds what can be recouped from payers. While health insurance covers some aspects of dementia care, many of the important time-intensive evaluations and follow-up care services are not reimbursed. The $1 million anonymous gift will help cover the difference between the true cost of these comprehensive services and what health insurance covers. At current capacity, the program will be able to evaluate approximately 1,000 new patients and provide approximately 3,000 follow-up visits per year.
In addition to Marshall, the MCP team includes:
- Psychiatrists Anton Porsteinsson, M.D., Saleem Ismail, M.D., and Lisa Boyle, M.D.
- Neurologist Charles Duffy, M.D.
- Geriatrician Michelle Carpenter-Bradley, M.D.
- Neuropsychologist Mark Mapstone, Ph.D.
- Psychometrician Teresa Steffenella
- Nurse practitioner Debra Berry
- And social worker Susan Ruhlin
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