June 30, 2018

Aging Brain Symposium 2018

There’s no running away from time. While hereditary factors play a significant role, the biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s or other types dementia is age. The risk for Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after age 65, with the annual cost of care coming in at about $277 billion in 2017. This number is expected to rise to $1.1 trillion by 2050. To help prepare for this reality, Partners Population Health hosted “The Aging Brain: Caring for Patients Across the Cognitive Continuum – Disease Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment in Primary Care,” an educational symposium that took place Friday, June 8. The symposium was designed to provide education, training and thoughtful discussion on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of patients with cognitive disorders including Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

“Alzheimer’s dementia is rising to epidemic proportions in the United States. The economic, physical health and emotional toll on both patients and caregivers is profound,” said Brent Forester, MD, MSc, Medical Director for Behavioral Health at Center for Population Health and McLean Hospital’s Chief of Geriatric Psychiatry, who served as Chair of the Planning Committee for this event. “Our symposium highlighted opportunities at early recognition and treatment of dementia and supporting primary care clinicians in this effort.”

This event was co-organized by the population health Behavioral Health Integration and High-Risk Care Management (iCMP) teams. Organizers included Elizabeth Fischer, MPH, a Project Specialist for Behavioral Health and Dan Kobrin, MEd, a Program Manager for Education and Training. The 126 attendees consisted of clinical and administrative staff in Primary Care settings and Care Management Programs across the Partners system.

The symposium’s opening keynote was given by the Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs, Alice Bonner, PhD, RN. Bonner’s passion was evident as she discussed her personal and professional experience working with elders. Her personal observations, intertwined with Brent Forester’s insight into the current state of the problem, made for a meaningful and heartfelt introduction to the rest of day’s agenda.

Drs. Bonner and Forester were followed by Brad Dickerson, M.D., the Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Front Temporal Disorders Unit and Neuroimaging Lab in Boston. He gave a comprehensive talk on “Dementia for the Non-Expert”.

Watch a video featured in Dr. Dickerson’s talk on one of his patients with frontal lobe dementia. 

Following his talk were three discussions:

  • How different entities in the network are addressing cognitive impairment in primary care, by representatives from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, North Shore Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Dementia Care Consultation Program: Collaboration with Partners HealthCare by Liz McCarthy from the Alzheimer’s Association
  • Legal and Ethical Considerations in Caring for Alzheimer’s Patients – Invoking Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives in Decision-making by Jacob C. Holzer, MD

Dr. Brent Forrester talks to attendees at the Aging Brain SymposiumDuring the lunch period, Brent Forester facilitated a conversation with a patient and her sister on navigating the health care system. The patient shared her perspective of navigating the healthcare system when experiencing a cognitive processing condition while her sister shared her experience as a care partner. They provided an insightful look at the other side of health care, expressing how difficult it can be—with anecdotes of losing employment and thus losing insurance and getting timely access to care.

“These sisters highlighted the challenges one faces navigating a healthcare system ill equipped to screen, assess and adequately manage symptoms of dementia,” said Dr. Forester. “This patient and her sister, who acts as her caregiver, provided a remarkable story of how important social engagement, physical activity and community support can be to achieve the goal of maximizing quality of life and focusing on what one can do when faced with the reality of dementia in themselves or a loved one.”

Following lunch, breakout sessions were held on 4 topics:

  • Prevention: Modifiable Lifestyle Factors That May Protect Brain Function by Olivia I. Okereke, MD, MS
  • Assessing and Managing the Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Dementia and Related Disorders by Jennifer R. Gatchel, MD, PhD
  • Playing It Safe: Safety Conversations About Home, Driving and Managing Finances by Margaret O’Connor, PhD, ABPP
  • Caregiver Support: Lightening the Burden of Care by Barbara Moscowitz, MSW, LICSW

The day wrapped up with a final word from Dr. Forester and an understanding about how best to address clinical management of dementia and related cognitive disorders in their everyday work.

If you have a Partners log-in, you can access photos of the event on Partners Pulse.

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