Feb 29, 2012

New Phone Line Offers Advice on Memory Loss, Dementia

Memory Connection is answered by an expert care team that connects patients to physicians, social workers, support groups, and all available services.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Let me ask you a simple question, when you received the dementia diagnosis, who did you call first for help and information? Did you call an association, your church, the local university, who?

Did you get help, accurate information, or anything that helped you cope with the situation?

Who did you call next, and next? Did anyone provide you with the kinds of information a dementia caregivers needs to understand the situation, or information that helped you cope, cope personally with the situation?

How did I do back in 2004? I hit a series of dead ends and brick walls. I did get offered some pamphlets. Yes, I felt alone.

I am greatly encouraged by the model described below. The goal of this service, Memory Connection, is to help individuals and families affected by memory and/or thinking changes to learn about services in an easy, non-stressful way.

YeeHa, I say. The world is changing slowly. However, this could lead to a national and international model that would actually work for Alzheimer's caregivers.

I wish I could say to everyone now and in the future, call this number, they will point you in the right directions. Right now I can't. Instead I have to say, try the Alzheimer's Reading Room. Not exactly a local service that can provide you with the information you need, but at least you won't feel lonely and alone. Plus, we have a lot of good advice here -- more than 3,000 article. The largest body of dementia content available in one place.

When you read about the model below one thing you will notice, the phones are going to be answered by trained professionals that understand dementia, Alzheimer's, memory loss, Lewy Body disease, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia.

Imagine, trained professionals. Plus, they will include in our friends that our dealing with other types of dementia. I like it, include.

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U-M Memory Connection is answered by expert care team, connects patients to physicians, social workers, support groups and more

Her diagnosis was scary: Alzheimer’s Disease. So Myriam Torres was desperate for accurate information and help with coping with what the future might bring.

“I must have had to make six phone calls before I got to the right place. It was so frustrating. I even had a social worker friend trying to help me. And finally I got somebody,” says Torres, a 58-year-old Ypsilanti Township, Mich. resident.

Torres’ story is not uncommon. That’s why the University of Michigan Health System has established a new phone number that connects patients and their families and friends to University of Michigan memory loss and dementia services. The number for the new U-M Memory Connection is 734-936-8803.

“We need to do a better job of helping our patients and families find their way,” says Henry Paulson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center and professor of neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

“We don’t want patients, their families and friends to spend a lot of time on routes that don’t lead to answers. And the U-M Memory Connection call center is a great start to solving that problem.”

The U-M Memory Connection is designed to be a one-stop resource to learn about and connect to U-M memory loss and dementia services. The goal is to help individuals and families affected by memory and/or thinking changes to learn about services in an easy, non-stressful way, Paulson says.

Calls will be answered by a trained professional who understands conditions such as mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body disease,frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia. The line is answered Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the goal of providing service within the next business day or sooner.

“This is a huge health problem that affects all of us. We need to do a better job of making the diagnosis but also implementing care … it can be very difficult for patients to navigate their way,” Paulson says.

U-M Memory Connection can offer advice and information about multiple clinics and departments at the University of Michigan, including the Cognitive Disorders Clinic, Geriatric Psychiatry, Neuropsychology, Pharmacology and the Turner Geriatric Clinic.

The call center specialists also can provide links to services like the Silver Club Programs at the U-M Geriatrics Center, social work and community programs, the Housing Bureau for Seniors and the Drive-Ability program through U-M’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation department.

Patients and families also can be connected to research studies on various topics.

“Many people experience changes with memory as they age. Some changes are normal, but other changes could be a sign of memory loss and we know it is important to understand that difference. Our call center specialists can answer some of the difficult questions you may have at the time of a diagnosis and beyond, ” says Cassie Starback, coordinator of the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

U-M Memory Connection was developed in collaboration with the U-M Dementia Consortium, which was established by the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The consortium is comprised of various U-M departments and institutions, such as Neurology, the Geriatrics Center, U-M School of Public Health, U-M School of Social Work and also the local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Torres says she’s glad to know that U-M is offering a phone line that can help others find the support and information they need. Torres, who was eventually diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, actively participates in programs through the Silver Club, but wishes she could have found out about it sooner.

“I really needed to be with people who are like me,” says Torres, who is a retired statistical analyst. “This group looks like me, is dealing with the same issues. I knew I was going to be fine in this group. I have a lot of people who understand me.”

About the University of Michigan’s Department of Neurology: The department is an academic medical department with a full range of activities in patient care, education and research. The Neurology inpatient service provides care for acutely ill patients with neurologic disease and includes a dedicated intensive care unit, a separate stroke unit, and inpatient epilepsy monitoring beds. Our faculty also investigate the causes, treatments, natural history and phenotypic spectrum of inherited neurologic disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. Our studies range from describing novel inherited neurologic syndromes; to family studies including genetic mapping; discovering genes for neurologic diseases; and the creation and analysis of laboratory animals of neurologic disease.

More Insight and Advice from the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room