The Wright Center Explains Alzheimer’s and Dementia Complex

The Wright Center states there’s a pretty good chance that someone close to you has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is indeed a devastating condition with profound impacts on those afflicted and their families. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6.7 million people 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s dementia in the United States, including more than 280,000 Pennsylvanians.

The disease’s impact goes beyond those diagnosed, affecting their families significantly. In Pennsylvania, for example, there were an estimated 404,000 family caregivers statewide in 2022. These caregivers often provide extensive and demanding care, facing emotional, physical, and financial challenges as they support their loved ones through the progression of the disease.

Medical progress on the disease has been frustratingly slow, but awareness campaigns like Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in June certainly help the cause. The observance educates people about the disease’s risk factors, signs, and symptoms and the importance of early detection and diagnosis. It’s also a vehicle for raising funds geared toward much-needed Alzheimer’s research.

The month is also known for the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day, the June 21 observance when people from around the world come together to “fight the darkness” of Alzheimer’s through a fundraising activity of their choice.

The Wright Center is doing its part via their Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care (ADC) Program, which is based on the award-winning model established at UCLA and designed to help patients and families with the complex medical, behavioral, and social needs of Alzheimer’s and related dementias. First launched in 2020, the program is led by a dedicated group of geriatricians, advanced practitioners, and dementia care specialists who collaborate closely with patients’ primary care physicians to ensure care is comprehensive and coordinated for both the patient and their caregivers.

ADC has several core components, including a 90-minute in-person visit with a dementia care specialist; a personalized care plan developed with the primary/referring physician; follow-up phone calls and/or in-person visits to ensure the plan is implemented or modified as needed; 24/7, 365-day-a-year access to caregivers for assistance and advice in order to avoid emergency department visits and hospitalizations; and ongoing patient monitoring with at least one annual in-person visit to ensure that ongoing and emerging needs are being met.

The Wright Center is proud to announce that the program recently received some major visibility when it was listed in Best Programs for Caregiving, a partnership between the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging and Family Caregiver Alliance, a free, searchable, and interactive database that helps families and caregivers find the right program for their loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The website includes descriptions of the program, whether it is offered in-person or online, information on providers, eligibility criteria, how to enroll, languages offered, and more.

ADC is part of the comprehensive list of services we provide under the Geriatric Care service line, geared to aging adults who may find themselves unfairly categorized as frail or not being listened to by other doctors. The Wright Center employs a holistic, whole-person approach to every patient at every age, giving them the tools and care to live a full and healthy life. The approach has been recognized by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement as an Age-Friendly Health System Partner for providing a full spectrum of whole-person primary health and support services for our patients who are young at heart.

The Wright Center is hopeful that as awareness increases and more families seek testing and treatment early, they may see some real breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s and dementia care treatment within the next few years. Nonetheless, they will continue to ensure that their patients are getting exemplary care and that caregivers are receiving the tools and support needed to get through this difficult experience.

Tanureet Kochar, M.D., is a dual board-certified internal medicine and geriatric physician at The Wright Center for Community Health. She also serves as a core faculty member of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education’s Internal Medicine Residency and Geriatric Fellowship programs. In addition, Dr. Kochar is the regional director of medical education for A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona.