Arming caregivers with insight into dementia behaviors; self-care strategies

A psychiatrist at The University of Michigan has developed and operationalized a behavioral approach to dementia care that eases the stress on caregivers while also benefiting patients, NPR reports. The training and support program arms caregivers with tools normally reserved for physicians as the amount of people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s reaches a record high, the publication said. 

The program gives caregivers a step-by-step method to pinpoint patients’ behavioral triggers and problem-solve around them instead of relying on medication alone. Caregivers are also encouraged to prioritize self-care, based on research showing that family members who care for dementia patients often suffer too, which in-turn affects the quality of care they provide. The University of Michigan is currently creating pamphlets and online tools to help those outside their clinic, and recently published the first pilot study of a web-based DICE tool called WeCareAdvisor. 

“No one had ever provided family caregivers with such a user-friendly method before,” Katie Brandt, the director of Caregiver Support Services for the Frontotemporal Disorders Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told the publication.

Health systems taking multi-dimensional approach to patient-centered care

According to Modern Healthcare's most recent CEO Power Panel Survey, almost 65 percent of surveyed health care executives have changed how they define patient-centered care in the past five years, the publication reports. Health systems have redefined and are implementing changes to the concept of patient-centered care as they coordinate services, boost patient access and provide education materials and resources. These systems are shifting from focusing on clinical interactions and are now encompassing “anything that touches a patient in any way,” including major investments in technology and telemedicine, Jim Hinton, CEO of Baylor Scott & White Health in Texas, told the publication. 

This also includes bolstering patient engagement and developing greater insight into the entire patient picture by prioritizing the social determinants of health. Organizations such as Minneapolis-based Allina now screen patients in emergency departments and clinics for issues around housing and food insecurity, transportation challenges and domestic violence. 

Hospitals continue to address the social determinants of health

More and more, hospitals are addressing the social determinants of health and are becoming attuned to how they relate to patients’ well-being, especially after the publication of an historic study showing that clinical care accounts for just 20 percent of a population’s health. Hospitals throughout the country have addressed this issue by investing in housing for displaced people, working to boost food security, helping patients with transportation needs and more. A recent story in the Wall-Street Journal backs up this research and underscores hospitals’ efforts as they experiment with new care strategies. For instance, United Healthcare screens patients for social needs and helps connect them with resources to ensure they have access to medication and housing, among other resources. And Geisinger, based in Danville, Pa., has actually saved money by providing free, healthy foods, along with other health services, to patients with Type 2 diabetes who need food assistance. 

Hospitals team up to slash carbon emissions

At this week’s Global Climate Action Summit, more than 17,000 health systems worldwide pledged to cut “four coal plants’ worth of carbon emissions” from their operations this year in response to the public health threat posed by global warming, Grist reports. The Global Climate and Health Forum, which is leading the effort, says that global warming threatens food and water systems, spreads mosquito-borne diseases and exposes more people to extreme weather events.

“Our biggest hope is that the summit will serve to mobilize people in the health sector around the world to really step up and take action,” Linda Rudolph, who heads the Public Health Institute’s Center for Climate Change and Health and also hosts the U.S. Climate and Health Alliance, told the publication.