Juliet Holt Klinger, MA, Expert on Dementia Care

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30 July 2018

Last week, nearly 6,000 people descended on my hometown of Chicago and they all have one passion in common—working to improve the lives of those diagnosed (or yet to be diagnosed) with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. I was thrilled to have the rare chance to attend the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference (AAIC) this year. It is an awe-inspiring week – so many scientists, so much research, so many dedicated people from many different countries – it is truly an amazing and humbling experience.

Major Development for Dementia Intervention

AAIC is the largest international Alzheimer’s and dementia care meeting that brings together clinicians, researchers and providers to discuss advancing dementia science. While each day is filled with major developments, the biggest news reported of the conference related to the 2015 Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), in which preliminary results proved intensive blood pressure treatment reduces chances of developing mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

The SPRINT study involved more than 9,000 hypertension patients whose systolic blood pressure number, the top number in a blood pressure reading, is aggressively lowered to 120 instead of the typical higher target of 140. When achieved, the study found the participants had a 19 percent lower rate of mild cognitive impairment and a 15 percent reduction in mild cognitive impairment and dementia combined.

This is further support that lifestyle matters. Much of the research presented at the conference speaks to the importance of controllable lifestyle factors. While this isn’t new news, it reiterates the notion that what is good for your heart is truly good for your brain. Exercise, proper healthy diet, good cognitive workouts and social connectedness are important to both reducing the risk of a diagnosis and living a better life after diagnosis.

Hope for the Future of Dementia Care

In keeping with the collegial spirit of the AAIC conference, the Alzheimer’s Association convened the first Dementia Care Provider Roundtable, which brought together care providers and industry experts from across the country to discuss the emerging dementia care issues. I was honored to be appointed Roundtable Chair and lead the collaborative discussion between colleagues from senior living, home health care and skilled nursing. We had an open dialogue about new opportunities for dementia care, common challenges and shared implementation strategies.

The goal of the Roundtable contributes to facilitating application of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Dementia Care Practice Recommendations, which were released in January. These recommendations focus on person-centered care with the goal of improving the quality of dementia care across all care settings. The Roundtable is comprised of an esteemed group of passionate providers who will work together to ensure everyone we serve who is living with dementia receives this standard of care. The old saying, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” rings true when you have a gathering of the brightest minds in dementia care.

As the conference attendees were reminded during Dr. Henry Brodaty’s plenary session titled “Psychosocial Research in Dementia; Past, Present, and Future,” person centered-care and programming can be highly effective treatments for the symptoms of dementia. Of importance to the provider group, a few of the research studies presented last week included environmental and psychosocial programming as useful interventions for Alzheimer’s and dementia care, such as the update Dr. Barry Reisberg gave on the effects of his study on the effectiveness of a Comprehensive, Individualized, Person (Patient)-Centered Management (CI-PCM) program. This not only validates the Alzheimer’s Association’s Dementia Care Practice Recommendations, but also Brookdale’s Clare Bridge and Crossings person-centered programming.

We may not have a cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia, but the encouraging news is that there are thousands of dedicated scientists and practitioners across the world working hard every day to improve quality of care and most importantly, quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

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