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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 5, 2003

UI Experts Collaborate With State Agencies To Improve Care For Alzheimer's Patients

Approximately four million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and by the middle of this century that number will increase to more than 14 million. With nearly 19 percent of Iowans age 60 or older, and 2.2 percent age 85 or older, Iowa has one of the oldest per capita populations in the nation, and the impact of Alzheimer's in this state will be significant.

In an effort to diminish the detrimental effects of Alzheimer's and establish effective care practices in the state, experts at the UI College of Nursing and the UI Center on Aging are collaborating with agencies throughout the state by educating and assisting caregivers to improve access to care for Iowans who suffer from the disease.

Janet Specht, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing, and Geri Hall, Ph.D., associate professor (clinical) of nursing, are co-principal investigators on a contract working with the Iowa Department of Elder Affairs and the UI Center on Aging for an endeavor called the Rural Alzheimer's Demonstration Project.

Working with three Alzheimer's Association Chapters and four Area Agencies on Aging representing 15 counties, Specht and Hall share their expertise by training nurse care managers to recognize and manage dementia. Family and friends who care for Alzheimer's patients also benefit from training and support that helps them communicate with and assist their loved ones.

The project includes a research component that compares outcomes for patients who receive nursing care and counseling from nurse care managers who are dementia specialists with outcomes for those who receive more traditional care which typically means basic coordination of health care, meals, cleaning and other social services.

According to Ann Bossen, project coordinator, "We've found that by providing professional nursing care in the home with dementia specialists that enhance the traditional case management services, we are able to help patients maintain their cognitive and functional abilities rather than decline. People are able to stay safely in their homes longer rather than being prematurely placed in long-term care facilities."

The three-year project is funded through a grant that provides $350,000 yearly from the Administration on Aging. Preliminary positive findings associated with the work that has already been done with nearly 400 families statewide resulted in an additional year of funding.

To participate in the project, or for more information about managing Alzheimer's disease through nursing care, contact the UI College of Nursing at 319-335-7136 or contact one of the project agencies listed below:

Alzheimer's Association Chapters: Big Sioux (Sioux City), 1-800-426-6512; East Central (Cedar Rapids), 1-888-397-9635; Greater Iowa Mississippi Valley (Davenport), 1-800-448-3650.

Area Agencies on Aging: Siouxland Aging Services (Sioux City), 1-800-798-6916; Heritage Area Agency on Aging (Cedar Rapids), 1-800-332-5934; Generations Area Agency (Davenport), 563-324-9085.

Elder Services, Inc., 319-338-0515.

NOTE TO EDITORS: November is National Alzheimer's Month

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Nursing, 101 Nursing Building, Iowa City, Iowa 52242

CONTACT: Bonnie McIntosh (319) 335-7003, bonnie-mcintosh@uiowa.edu