UAlbany looking at Alzheimer’s research
By Clarissa Schmidt
Over the course of the next six years, the School of Public Health at the University at Albany will receive $700,000 to aid the Alzheimer’s Disease Program, which is sponsored by the New York State Department of Health.
This is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $67.5 million grant program, Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiver Support Initiative, which was announced earlier this year. It follows the $25 million plan that was enacted by the NYSDOH last year to support individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, as well as their caregivers.
UAlbany plans to work closely with the NYSDOH in coordinating an in-depth evaluation of the initiative. The evaluation, currently in its first year, is expected to be complete in its sixth year.
Alzheimer’s disease is a large public health issue for the state. Approximately 380,000 people in New York are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. By the year 2025, that number is projected to increase to 460,000. The disease takes a mental, physical, emotional and economic toll on not only those with Alzheimer’s, but on their family members and caregivers as well.
“Caregivers are poorly paid and often feel restricted,” said Darla Starson, a registered nurse and the branch manager of Visiting Nurses Home Care. “The initiative should help caregivers feel respected and serve as an incentive to make others want to move into the caregiver field.”
Some of the goals the initiative aims to meet include providing additional caregiver support systems across the state and expanding evidence-based interventions offered by the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers of Excellence and Alzheimer’s Caregiver Assistance Programs.
According to Mary Gallant, a dean in the School of Public Health, the school will be collecting information from all organizations that are funded by the initiative to better understand who is being reached by the evidence-based services in place. The School of Public Health will be reviewing surveys and interviews to help the state determine how to best support organizations in the future.
This evaluation will also look at the effects of support services on caregivers. This includes stress and health burdens, any potential to reduce avoidable emergency department visits, and whether the initiative delays nursing home placement. The provision of recommended screenings to determine an earlier diagnosis will be one of the outcomes assessed.
“We’re allowing New York State to work at a much greater level than before,” Gallant said. “We’re hoping that New York can be a model to providing comprehensive support and demonstrate its experiences so the results inform future practices and policies.”
Along with Gallant, the students and faculty at the School of Public Health will analyze the data and then publish their results. This will allow students to gain real-world experience in program-evaluation by looking at various types of data and the public health implications of Alzheimer’s disease. Although the school is now an independent campus with full-time faculty, it frequently collaborates with the NYSDOH from an academic angle to address various public health problems in New York.