Caring for seniors with beginning or late stages of dementia is difficult at best, but avoiding the topic will only lead to greater problems among those you serve. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recognized this need and initiated a new national partnership to improve dementia care across different senior care facilities.

The current standards of tracking care of those with dementia are evolving. Meanwhile, health disparities continue to plague the senior population, but dementia often hides in plain sight. Rather than waiting for the next diagnosis to unveil itself, you need to understand how and why tracking dementia will impact dementia care for seniors in the coming years.

 

CMS Has Started Tracking Aspects of Senior Care Programs for Those With Dementia

To better align federal and state agencies with the specific needs and shortcomings of nursing homes and senior care providers, the CMS has taken steps to implement better tracking of those with dementia. These practices will help improve the quality of life for those affected and prevent substandard care from occurring through intense inspections and reporting.

Overmedication with antipsychotics was among CMS’ top concerns in 2015 and 2016. The agency hoped to reduce the use of antipsychotics among people with dementia by 30 percent before the end of last year. Although final reports are not yet available, all surveyor and senior care training materials for monitoring and tracking of pertinent information have been uploaded to the agency’s website. More importantly, these documents can help senior care facilities evaluate and refine their existing senior care training programs for those receiving dementia services.

 

Current Prevalence and Statistics Indicate Further Research on Future Trends Is Needed

Although the Alzheimer’s Association monitors and tracks the prevalence of Alzheimer’s among U.S. adults, it does not specifically track non-Alzheimer’s dementias. Unfortunately, this means the true prevalence estimates of dementia in the U.S. could be higher. Around the globe, tracking of dementia is not much better.

A recent review of global trends in dementia incidence and prevalence, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine, found continuous inconsistencies among studies that assumed sex- or age-specific dementia would occur. In other words, decreased mortality rates among those with dementia, such as living longer due to better medication treatment options, may skew the overall predictions of future prevalence estimates. Thus, researchers indicated that further studies would be needed to predict accurate prevalence estimates for the future.

 

Funding Depends on Obtaining Accurate Information Regarding Prevalence and Incidence of Dementia

The U.S. is not a self-serving country. Officials and agencies in America take great strides to help those living with health problems around the world, including seniors and older adults living with dementia. But, not having accurate information causes additional problems beyond reporting.

In the U.S., inaccurate information for all dementia types makes allocating funding for research and treatment difficult. The process is further complicated in countries that do not reciprocate America’s resolve to exchange information. Meanwhile, changing diets and lifestyles, such as increasing the amount of processed foods consumed, in other parts of the world might increase the risk for dementia among populations.

 

Electronic Health Records May Assist in Reducing Overmedication of Seniors and Lost Data

Health care organizations, including senior care providers, that participate in the Medicare Incentive Program for Electronic Health Records (EHR), may already have an invaluable tool at their disposal for tracking information on those they serve with dementia.

An EHR can be accessed, depending on the system used, from virtually any location with internet connectivity. Consequently, this information could automatically be distributed and reported to appropriate authorities while maintaining appropriate privacy standards. In addition, intuitive EHRs might be applied to alert caregivers of possible overmedication issues, and they can be used to retrieve data lost for past fiscal years.

 

Better Information Leads to Better Program Management

Dementia and senior care improve when your program operates more efficiently and effectively. In other words, you need access to recent, relevant information for each person you serve. While this information might be accessible in EHRs, those with dementia in home care settings might be more difficult to track.

Rather than trying to monitor how family members or friends provide care for someone, consider asking home caregivers to download a senior care app.

For example, Medisafe allows users to find coupons for prescriptions, connect with physicians and pharmacists and work with other members of an interdisciplinary treatment team to receive a more cohesive standard and quality of care.  

Alternatively, eCare21 reduces risk to seniors living with dementia by using wearable devices, such as smartwatches, which may contain a GPS. However, the physical tracking of a person’s location may infringe on his or her right to privacy, so explain what information will and will not be tracked as part of the system.

Of course, additional senior care apps can be found via a search in an internet browser, the Apple App Store or Google Play.

 

What Does It Mean for Your Organization?

Learning about dementia in your senior care training program will be essential to understanding the importance of tracking the disease’s prevalence and incidence rates. Unfortunately, dementia remains a commonly misunderstood illness, and some may believe it is simply a “natural” part of the aging process. However, knowing more about this condition will help your organization plan and provide the best care possible, including expanding services where appropriate.

You cannot predict who will and will not be diagnosed with dementia, but you can help them through their trials and tribulations by providing education and training to senior caregivers in your organization. Do not wait until prevalence rates grow too large to effectively address, which may happen sooner than you think, especially considering the inconsistencies in recent studies. Essentially, more information translates into better prevention tools and measures in the fight against dementia.