By Prue Salasky, psalasky@dailypress.com

Several Riverside Health System programs for the diagnosis and treatment of those with Alzheimer's and other dementias, and for their caregivers, have received kudos from the state.

"Dementia Care Best Practices in the Commonwealth," a report compiled by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, identified 40 programs from 31 organizations in Virginia that "go above and beyond expected practices" and put together 13 recommendations for encouraging and expanding these services across the state.

The Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health in Williamsburg was cited as one of the state's six interdisciplinary memory assessment centers, and one of four "evidence-based best practices" for diagnosis and treatment of dementias. In operation since 2009, 85 percent of its assessments involve a patient with cognitive loss, according to the report.

In 2012, 91,517 Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia had a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's, but the actual number is estimated to be closer to 130,000. With the aging of the population, that number is expected to grow to 190,000 by 2020. Correspondingly, informal and family caregivers provide approximately 510 million hours of unpaid care valued at $6.3 billion.

A few years ago, Riverside instituted its ClearPath Memory Care framework as an entry point for information, resources and services for individuals with cognitive impairment and their caregivers. Its director, Mary Martha Stewart, describes it as "a work in progress — a comprehensive initiative to provide integrated services for dementia care." One of its top priorities is to develop clinical practice guidelines for screening and intervention with patients. Its Senior Care Navigators (757-856-7030) guide people to appropriate resources both within Riverside and in the community.

Among these is Riverside's "Caring for You, Caring for Me," a 10-hour program for caregivers presented in five weekly modules by the Center for Excellence. It was cited in the state report for its caregiver support and training. Christy Jensen, the program's coordinator, is the only Rosalynn Carter Institute-certified master trainer in the country who works outside the Institute.

The Center for Excellence, which shared a recent $433,000 three-year federal grant with the University of Virginia Memory Disorders Center in Charlottesville, this month introduced a new program, FAMILIES: Family Access to Memory Impairment and Loss Information, Engagement and Supports. The research program provides counseling and support for caregivers over several months at no cost; it aims to enroll 15 caregivers in its first year and 30 each in the next two years, according to Jensen. Eight have already signed up, according to Stewart.

Riverside was also tagged for the Senior Saddles program conducted at Dream Catchers at the Cori Sikich Therapeutic Riding Center in Toano. Participants receive an individualized lesson plan including therapeutic riding or stable time with 1-hour weekly sessions for 10 weeks through a partnership between Riverside Health System's Patriots Colony and the Williamsburg Landing.

Salasky can be reached by phone at 757-247-4784.

Dementia care:

  • Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health, 3901 Treyburn Dr, Williamsburg; 757-220-4751.
  • FAMILIES, a free monthslong program for caregivers in James City County, York County, Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson, Williamsburg, Gloucester and Mathews; for information and eligibility, call Riverside Senior Care Navigation, 757-856-7030, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mon-Fri.
  • "Caring for You, Caring for Me, a program of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving for family, professional and volunteer caregivers; 5 weekly sessions, Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., March 4 to April 1, at Warwick Forest, 1004 Old Denbigh Blvd., Newport News; $45 including refreshments and materials, some scholarships available. For information, or to register, call Christine Jensen, 757-220-4751, or email cjensen@excellenceinaging.org; http://www.excellenceinaging.org/caringforyou
  • The virtual platform, http://www.AlzPossible.org, is a compilation of resources and policy information regarding dementia treatment and care in Virginia.

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Published: February 3, 2015