By Ellen Goldbaum
Published May 31, 2023
To improve the care of Western New Yorkers with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, UB’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center is significantly expanding its geographic outreach to patients, families, caregivers and medical providers.
Designated a Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease (CEAD) by the New York State Department of Health in 2016, the UB center is using its current round of $2.3 million in funding to expand and bolster its connections with patients, caregivers, providers and organizations throughout all eight counties of Western New York.
“Our mandate is to work throughout Western New York to improve the level of awareness about the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease among providers, patients, families and the public,” explains Kinga Szigeti, MD, PhD, director of the CEAD and UB’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center, associate professor of neurology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, and a neurologist with UBMD Neurology.
“With improved awareness, we can boost early screening and detection, which significantly benefits outcomes for patients and families,” she says.
Since receiving the additional funding last year, the center has taken part in dozens of community events and conducted education programs for community members throughout Western New York, including in Allegany, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans counties.
CEAD also holds training sessions and grand rounds for a full range of providers, from primary care and internal medicine to neurologists, psychiatrists and physician assistants, as well as nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers and community health workers. The new funding has enabled CEAD to hire additional staff to bolster outreach to specific professions, such as social workers, nurses, emergency medical technicians and law enforcement.
“We have different presentations for different groups,” notes Alison Case, CEAD program director. “There are lots of different professionals who are going to come into contact with patients with a cognitive disorder/dementia who may not behave in ways that are easy for others to understand. Our job is to educate them about these behaviors and provide strategies that will help them to respond and manage them so that everyone experiences a better outcome.”
A key way CEAD accomplishes this is through its connection to the Jacobs School, where the center can educate the next generation of health and social sciences professionals. The center’s staff works closely with various medical resident and student programs in the Jacobs School, as well as in the schools of Nursing, Social Work and Public Health and Health Professions.
CEAD is also working with the resident, health sciences and social work programs at local hospitals and institutions, providing didactics on dementia from clinical, nursing and social work perspectives.
In addition to continuing to provide services to patients in Erie and Niagara counties, the emphasis of this second cycle of funding is for CEAD to expand visibility in the region’s more rural counties, namely Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming. CEAD is working closely with the offices of the aging in these counties and reaching out to area doctors and hospital systems.
“Our mandate is to more fully inform the communities throughout all the Western New York counties that the Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease at UB is here to help anyone in the eight-county area who is affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Szigeti says. “That means we provide accurate assessment, diagnosis and treatment plans for patients and their families, as well as a broad range of education programs to raise awareness and understanding for local physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and social workers.”
Adds Case: “We are also focused on improving outreach to underserved communities, both in the more densely populated parts of Western New York as well as in rural areas.”
This year, CEAD has presented educational programs about Alzheimer’s disease for patients and caregivers through public meetings in Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, in addition to Niagara and Erie counties. The center’s staff also makes presentations to groups of professionals in numerous health sciences fields, from radiology to primary care to social work.
“Brain Train” is CEAD’s most successful community education program; it is free and available to community organizations. These sessions take a positive approach to brain health, presenting user-friendly information about how diet, exercise, social interaction and physical activity can all contribute to keeping one’s brain healthy. The sessions provide information on early signs of dementia, research at UB’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center, and clinical trial opportunities, as well as offer time for questions and answers.
Community organizations interested in hosting a Brain Train session can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Karen Zakalik, program officer, at 716-829-4003.