September 21, 2020
World Alzheimer’s Day
Today is World Alzheimer’s Day. Amid a pandemic that has had a disproportionate impact on older people, it’s a good time to remember that dementia caregivers—most often family members—are in urgent need of guidance and support by clinicians, because many perform skilled nursing care tasks at home for which they are untrained and unsupported.
Today, more than 50 million people globally are living with dementia—more than five million of them in the U.S. By 2025, the demand for specialty dementia care will increase by nearly half, but in the US today only 3,590 geriatricians are practicing full time and their numbers are declining. This shortage can be mitigated by creating a corps of dementia-expert nurse practitioners and RNs, because a large portion of dementia care entails patient/caregiver education, care coordination and case management—all tasks at which nurses excel.
Today is also a day to recognize and encourage the thousands of nurses and other researchers around the world who are devoting their lives to not only finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and related dementias, but also identifying new strategies for helping improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their care givers.
The UW School of Nursing is a global leader in dementia research, through the efforts of several faculty members as well as the de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging.
School of Nursing faculty member Tatiana Sadak has, in a series of research projects, built a foundation for advancing not only our knowledge of dementia care, but also expanding the ways in which we can integrate such knowledge into the education of a corps of nurses who will be the next generation of providers. Her goals include developing a comprehensive training curriculum for undergraduate nurses; developing a dementia-focused case study that would be used in dementia education for not only nurses but also allied health professionals working with nurses; and creating a preceptor toolkit, short training course, and protocol for conducting training at clinical sites. That training would prepare ambulatory care RNs to deliver excellent dementia care and provide expert clinical supervision of RN students.
The School of Nursing’s efforts were recently recognized when we were named as the U.S. partner for Sweden’s Queen Silvia Nursing Award. This prestigious honor, awarded by the queen of Sweden, provides a scholarship and internship for an RN or nursing student who has a project that is innovative, creative, and promises to improve care for people with dementia. This year the award is giving expanded emphasis to projects seeking to improve dementia care in the context of the pandemic.
Dementia remains a difficult, discouraging disease. But progress is being made, much of it by clinical and research nurses. We are proud to be leading the way in redefining care for people living with dementia.