Dementia focus of meeting

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Photo courtesy of Glendive Medical Center

Participants in Thursday;s meeting on dementia were asked to look at resources currently available and identify those that are missing.

“This is a journey,” Dr. Patricia Coon told participants of a Community Ramp Up dementia town hall held at the Glendive Medical Center’s Carney Conference Center, Thursday.

Coon is a member of a team of medical professions from Billings Clinic and GMC which has been meeting to discuss how to address dementia care in the Glendive community. Other members of the team include Jan Smith, Betty Mullette and Kathie Burke from Billings Clinic; Dr. Soo Boorson, a “dementia expert” from California, and Jill Domek, MJ Marx, Angela Isaacson, Kari Robinson and Charlene Pontoriero from GMC.

The team has been holding telephone conferences every two weeks following a spring town hall meeting in Glendive. That meeting set priorities for bringing best practice dementia care to the community and identifying the best approach to address those priorities, Coon said.

At Thursday’s meeting, participants were asked to look at resources currently available, identify missing resources, and develop an action plan for moving forward.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, Coon noted, adding that dementia is a general term used to describe impaired mental ability that is severe enough to prevent a person from carrying on daily activities. It includes forgetfulness, the inability to think, plan, organize and do essential tasks such as driving, cooking or managing a checkbook.

Fifty percent of persons with dementia are never diagnosed and 50 percent of those who are diagnosed are not aware of the diagnosis, but it is very common, especially among the elderly. One of every five Medicare dollars goes toward treatment of dementia, she said.

Recognizing that dementia is a major problem, GMC is partnering with Billings Clinic to identify best practices in treating dementia and making them the norm.

“We must do better,” Coon said.

Glendive is not the only community dealing with this issue. Similar conversations are taking place across the state, but there is no state plan in place at this time. Meetings such as Thursday’s town hall are vital to build awareness, identify best practices and define high quality care and support for patients and their family members.

“It’s a village that makes high quality care possible,” she said.

Timely diagnosis, tailored medical care, educated medical staff, and connections to community resources are all vital to this process. An annual wellness exam which is available to all Medicare patients can be a key to early diagnosis, she noted.

Priorities identified at the spring meeting included the importance of maintaining dignity and a sense of value for people with dementia, providing them with meaningful activities and community engagement, access to dementia-trained professionals, behavioral supports, inhome care and residential settings where needed.

In building a plan, the vision should be to create a single door to services, Boorson said. People struggling with dementia or family members seeking assistance should be able to call on dementia care team which would include a doctor or nurse practitioner, a nurse, a social worker, a speech pathologist and an occupational therapist.

A dementia team is more than the sum of its parts, Coon added. It relies on collective wisdom.

In looking at action steps to implement the priorities identified in the spring meeting, town hall participants encouraged the formation of a dementia care team and advocated organizing support groups for caregivers. Educating medical professionals on the importance of annual wellness checks for their Medicare patients was also recommended.

More community awareness education, affordable respite care, an adult day care center and a central calling place were also identified by participants as important steps to take in addressing the treatment of dementia.

Interested community members were encouraged to join team members from Billings Clinic and GMC in their