Team of doctors and businessman communicating while having a meeting at doctor's office in the hospital.
(Credit: skynesher / Getty Images)

A roundtable of experts will work to establish consistent processes and protocols for dementia care navigation to support people living with dementia or with new diagnoses.

The Alzheimer’s Association has launched the Dementia Care Navigation Roundtable as advancements of new Alzheimer’s treatments are expected to result in more people seeking care and services.

The roundtable will bring together experts from across the healthcare industry, including system, clinicians, payers, researchers and other stakeholders to share best practices and resources. The association said it will convene the group early next year.

“The need to develop expert consensus around dementia care navigation is really critical to ensure people diagnosed and living with dementia have the care and support they need when they need it most,” Alzheimer’s Association Chief Program Officer Kristen Clifford said in a statement. “The roundtable offers an incredible opportunity to develop the future roadmap for dementia care navigation in this country, community by community.”

Several dementia care navigation programs have launched across the country and have been shown to improve care, reduce costs and enhance overall quality of life, but they are not widespread, the association said. The roundtable will develop “workable strategies and solutions” to be implemented in more communities to benefit more families.

“While it is important to establish processes and protocols for dementia care, as this roundtable aims to do, we must also remember that each resident is unique, and the process of learning about dementia care is ongoing,” Pam Truscott, director of quality improvement at the National Center for Assisted Living, told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Assisted living is an important long-term care option for seniors, and we should work together to promote quality improvement, while recognizing the disease process and honoring individual residents.”

The vast majority of assisted living communities can accommodate individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementias, and more than 50% of assisted living residents have some form of dementia or cognitive impairment, a number that is increasing every day, Argentum President and CEO James Balda told McKnight’s Senior Living

“Assisted living communities have trained staff on hand 24 hours a day to provide care for residents with Alzheimer’s including assistance with activities of daily living, as well as monitoring for changes in behavior or health, and many offer specialized programs that are designed to help residents with memory loss stay active and engaged,” he said. “Assisted living is part of the solution in providing compassionate and appropriate care for older Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and we hope to assist the roundtable in any way possible.”

Outlining guiding principles of dementia care navigation

The roundtable announcement comes as the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions published core guiding principles aimed at creating a national framework for dementia care navigation by emphasizing person-centered care.

In the paper, published Tuesday, the workgroup involved calls for improving the current process and outcome measures used to evaluate dementia care improvement efforts. Specifically, the panel expressed frustration over the limited capacity of traditional outcome measures to capture the true effects of dementia care navigation and that no outcome measures specific to dementia have been validated or adopted in the United States.

“Traditional dementia outcome measures tend to look at such things as stress, strain and isolation,” said David M. Bass, PhD, senior vice president and senior scientist at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. “Our workgroup is encouraging more person-centered measures within the context of dementia care navigation, looking at both the person living with dementia and their care partner’s ability to participate in daily living in ways that are meaningful to them.”

The roundtable will build off those guiding principles and gather additional evidence to provide guidelines to align patient navigation programs. 

The Alzheimer’s Association also applauded the new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Guiding an Improved Dementia Experience, or GUIDE, model announcement earlier this week. The program will provide access to dementia care navigators.

“With recent advancements of new treatments for Alzheimer’s, you are seeing growing momentum to build a healthcare infrastructure that is better prepared to care and support those living with Alzhimer’s and other dementias and their caregivers,” Clifford said.