An innovative program piloted by Rowan University/Rutgers-Camden Board of Governors (RURCBOG) in collaboration with Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. is applying the principles of patient navigation to Alzheimer’s care, providing much-needed support for patients and their caregivers.
Right now there are an estimated 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. Almost all of those individuals, or 5.3 million, are older than 65. And the number of diagnoses is expected to rise to seven million over the course of the next decade as a greater proportion of the population ages. Yet many seniors lack proper care coordination; at best, their care is arranged or overseen by a family member; at worst, there is no coordination whatsoever.
RURCBOG launched the Alzheimer’s Journey Coordinator Certificate Program (AJCCP) this past May to address the lack of support services for families that are affected by Alzheimer’s in Southern New Jersey. The program adapts the precepts of patient navigation that have worked so well in the oncology sector to provide coordination across the care continuum in what is a complex specialty, especially due to the degenerative nature of the disease.
Kris Kolluri, CEO of RURCBOG, was quoted as saying that the program will bring a “unique and innovative approach to improving the quality of life of those affected by Alzheimer’s, especially low-income and minority populations who struggle to access health care resources.”
The unique approach Kolluri mentions stems from the AJCCP’s emphasis on supporting patients and their caregivers. As the population of the United States continues to age, more people will be required to care for elderly parents or other loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s safe to assume that the vast majority of these individuals will face difficulties navigating the care plans set out by physicians. Having a frontline coordinator helps ensure they can do their jobs safely and effectively.
Lisa Winstel, COO of the Caregiver Action Network, noted that being a caregiver is often linked to “a significantly increased rate of depression, an increased rate of chronic diseases, because they [caregivers] just can’t face going to another doctor’s office, just can’t take more time off work for their own medical appointment.”
The AJCCP trains coordinators to facilitate care plans with patients and their families. The coordinators’ expertise helps families maneuver through emotional struggles as well as helps to navigate financial, legal or transportation barriers. As in oncology patient navigation, Alzheimer’s care coordinators will connect patients and their families with community resources to ease the stress that can accompany being a caregiver.
Seeing the benefits of coordination gaining traction and spreading to other specialties speaks to the emphasis on patient-centered care that much of the health care industry is shifting toward. To learn how Cordata’s platform could support your Alzheimer’s care management efforts, contact Sales at firstname.lastname@example.org.