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dementia care

New NIA Research Collaboration Aims to Improve Continuity in Dementia Care

By Phil Gutis | October 4th, 2019

In a massive effort involving dozens of researchers and long-term care facilities, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has awarded a $53.4 million grant to Brown University and the Hebrew Senior Home in Boston to develop and coordinate a nationwide series of studies focused on improving institutional care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other related dementias.

The grant — called the Imbedded Pragmatic AD/ADRD Clinical Trials (IMPACT) Collaboratory — will create a research incubator to develop trials designed to meet “a pressing need to improve care and support for people with dementia and their caregivers,” Richard J. Hodes, Director of the NIA, said in a release.

“The IMPACT Collaboratory will enable more effective, efficient teamwork research on finding better solutions for the millions of Americans affected by these devastating diseases,” Hodes added.

Continuity in Dementia Care

Lack of quality care and streamlined approaches among care providers has been linked to higher rates of hospitalizations and emergency room visits, as well as health care spending, the NIA release notes. One study found that at the end of their lives, only a small fraction of dementia patients receive specialized care.

The IMPACT Collaboratory aims to boost continuity in dementia care by becoming a national resource in developing pilot clinical trials to improve health outcomes and care for patients with dementia — whether that’s in people’s homes, or in nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities and adult day centers.

Primary goals outlined on the IMPACT website include funding and providing expert assistance for pilot trials that will test non-drug, care-based interventions for people living with dementia. The researchers will also work to ensure cultural sensitivity and inclusion of people from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

Vincent Mor, co-leader of the collaborative and professor of health services, policy and practice at Brown’s School of Public Health, said the grant will “revolutionize” research on how care is delivered to people living with dementia and their caregivers.

“The key,” he said in the release, “is figuring out how to take an idea that worked in an ideal situation and adapt it so it can be piloted in the messy real-world system of care providers that exists across the U.S.”

Researchers said the IMPACT project will involve 40 pilot projects embedded in health care systems to generate the data necessary to build larger more definitive trials.

Focus on Alzheimer’s is ‘Long Overdue’

Mor and Susan Mitchell, the other IMPACT leader, have worked together for the last four years to study the effectiveness of videos to guide patients through planning for care once they become too incapacitated to make decisions. Mitchell is a senior scientist at the Hebrew Senior Home’s Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Leaders of the Brown and the Hebrew Senior Home said increased focus on Alzheimer’s and other dementias is long overdue.

“It’s time for Alzheimer’s and other dementias to receive the same level of research focus and investment as cancer,” said Louis Woolf, HSL president and CEO. “We’re proud to collaborate with Brown University to address this national epidemic that affects not only patients, but their families and caregivers as well.”

Brown President Christina Paxson described Alzheimer’s and dementia as among “the most vexing neurodegenerative diseases both to researchers searching for solutions and to patients and family members.”

“This grant will harness the collective power of leading-edge scholars at Brown, Hebrew SeniorLife and across the nation to advance care and make a positive real-world impact on the individuals most directly affected by these illnesses,” she concluded.

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