Virginians are about to see the result of the state’s efforts to positively impact the lives of individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia — and those who care for them.
This summer, officials will re-launch the website, “AlzPossible.org,” newly fortified with a research database and a statewide dementia network, enabling users to easily find memory-disorder clinics and learn about their services.
Until now, Dementia Services Coordinator Charlotte Arbogast said Virginia has not had a comprehensive Alzheimer’s database. The new site will provide primary-care physicians with access to lists of Alzheimer’s specialists and the clinics that can do memory assessments to help diagnose the disease.
“That really is a key piece for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Carter Harrison, director of public policy at the Alzheimer’s Association.
Oftentimes, Arbogast said people don’t know who to contact when they suspect Alzheimer’s.
Harrison and Arbogast were two of dozens of speakers featured at this month’s Conference on Aging at Lynchburg College.
The database will include information from a wide range of sources on everything from care giving to cognitive impairment in an effort to shed light on the impact dementia has on people. Arbogast set out to include any research that enhances knowledge about dementia regardless of its primary goal.
“We are really trying to use data to improve outcomes,” Harrison said.
Although there were 1,848 deaths from Alzheimer’s disease in 2010, Arbogast said “research shows there is hope.” At least two European studies show decreases in Alzheimer’s in study subjects, but more research is needed, she said.
“We’ve been able to collect a lot of data that we wouldn’t have been able to get in the past,” Harrison said. Without it, “we can’t demonstrate impact.”
All of this information should be available to consumers by August.
Not long after, the state will start holding public hearings where residents can help shape the state’s dementia plan going forward. Arbogast said hearings, town halls and listening sessions give her a chance to make sure the plan reflects the needs of the community.
The current plan, published in 2011, has five goals, which Arbogast works on concurrently. The first two goals — to coordinate quality dementia services and use dementia-related data to improve outcomes — will see results this summer.
Arbogast said the effort will work to increase awareness and create dementia-specific training; provide access to quality coordinated care for those with dementia in integrated settings; and expand resources for dementia-specific translational research and evidence-based practices.
The result of the changes made to this point may be imperceptible, but give them three years, Harrison said, and people will definitely notice.
“What we are proud of is that they are achievable and specific” goals, Arbogast said.
“That was really key for us, that is how you measure accomplishments,” Harrison said.
Want to know more?
Learn more about the Virginia Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Commission and the Dementia State Plan at: www.alzpossible.org/