Research updates, support, and resources shared at Memory Clinic Network spring meeting

Annual spring meeting held virtually May 16

WAI convened members of the Dementia Diagnostic Memory Clinic Network virtually this spring, with a meeting held over WebEx on the morning of Saturday, May 16. Representatives from the network’s affiliated clinics joined the call over internet or phone. WAI Director Cynthia Carlsson, MD, MS, introduced the event with a welcome and update on the number of members in the clinic network. Maria Mora Pinzon, MD, MS, gave an update on how the clinic network is continuing to grow and meet the ever-changing needs of health care providers and people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia and their caregivers.

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting public health mandates required memory care clinics to move many services to phone, video and other telemedicine visits. Clinicians and care providers had to act quickly to continue to provide services and care to people with dementia and their caregivers without meeting in person.

In the network meeting, Sharlene Bellefeuille from the Alzheimer’s Association and Becky DeBuhr from Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin discussed issues facing family caregivers who are now largely isolated at home. They gave updates on how their organizations are continuing to help caregivers by offering support groups, programs, and support remotely.

“We are socially distancing, but we don’t have to be virtually distanced or emotionally distanced. And when we can connect on video, it’s really especially nice to see their smiling faces,” DeBuhr said.

Attendees of the meeting shared a few tips for handling telemedicine visits, described factors that can be challenges, and provided tips on how they’re working to overcome these obstacles.

Sterling Johnson, PhD, presented an update on the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP) research study. There are now 1680 people enrolled in WRAP, he said. Dr. Johnson shared how WRAP is continuing research and updates on latest findings.

Bonnie Nuttkinson, MS, discussed how outreach staff from WRAP and Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) are maintaining contact with research participants over phone, video and email. Outreach staff are accepting referrals and are continually connecting with research participants, caregivers, and community members, she said. Information about how to refer people to WRAP or other Wisconsin ADRC studies is posted on this page.

Dr. Carlsson concluded the meeting with an acknowledgement that the current situation for health providers is challenging, and virtual events like these are unusual. “Thank you so much for being a part of this, even if it was virtually,” she said. “I know we’ll continue connecting and sharing resources together and hopefully we’ll be able to connect soon in person.”