During my time in the US I had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles and more specifically the UCLA hospital campus to meet with Leslie Evertson (Lead Dementia Care Manager) and Dr Tan Zaldy (Medical Director) to hear more about their award winning program.
As with all of the services I have visited, I was drawn to the program as they offered something ‘extra’ for patients who are often more complex and in need of additional support. Having worked in a memory clinic for 6 months in the UK, I was in a good position to be able to compare and contrast the services provided in vastly different health care systems.
UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program accepts patients referred from their community team (family doctor/GP) with a diagnosis of dementia already in place. They are then seen for a lengthy assessment to review their current support need and plan for the future, which is not dissimilar from UK practice. Where the program does differ is in its provision of care coordination, education, carer support, liaison between community and specialist care, advance care planning and linkage to community resources.
The program has close links to the resources in the area such as the Jewish Family Service, ONEgeneration etc as well as organising support groups in the local area, for patients and their families. The service allows the care for that individual to be proactive, rather than reactive, with medication planning, advance care planning and open and on going discussion with the service users.
The most impressive project that the program coordinates is a Dementia Bootcamp. These run in the local community from 8am-5pm on a Saturday and have space for around 30 patients and family members. As well as offering the usual perks of food, respite and social connection, the bootcamp has sessions with occupational therapists, physiotherapists, clinicians, psychologists, marriage therapists as well as peer support groups giving individuals chance to tell their story and encourage learning. The idea of providing all of this specialist health education in such an open, supportive environment is very unique and gives those individuals and family members chance to have their voice heard and fosters learning and relationship building.