Art Walaszek, MD, has been awarded a $200,000 Opportunity Grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program for the project “Enabling Clinicians and Health care Trainees to Improve the Care of Wisconsin Residents Living with Dementia.”

This project will help train future health care professionals to detect and treat dementia and help current health care providers to better assess and manage the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.

The project, led by Walaszek, professor of psychiatry, and co-investigator Cynthia Carlsson, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine and director of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, will address a critical issue in Wisconsin, where the number of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease continues to grow, and accurate diagnosis of dementia remains challenging.

Certain populations, including African American and Latinx adults and those living in rural communities, are at even higher risk for delays in diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

By providing new resources to the clinicians within this network and by developing a new curriculum for future health care providers, this highly innovative project truly has the potential to transform the diagnosis and care of patients with dementia.

Richard Moss

In addition to the challenge of accurate and timely diagnosis, approximately 90 percent of individuals with dementia experience related behavioral and psychological symptoms, including depression, physical aggression, wandering, paranoia and refusing needed care. These symptoms threaten quality of life and increase the risk of institutionalization, hospitalization and elder abuse. Both those with dementia and their caregivers are at higher risk of injury as well.

Through the expansive Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute Dementia Diagnostic Clinic Network, this project will meet a significant need for additional training in the diagnosis and management of the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. It aims to enhance physicians’ knowledge and skills to effectively manage these symptoms, and will develop a curriculum for medical students, residents and fellows that will expand future health care providers’ ability to diagnose and care for culturally diverse patients with dementia.

In addition, the project aims to improve communication between health care staff and caregivers through implementation of an evidence-based approach to managing the complex behaviors associated with dementia.

Says Richard Moss, PhD, senior associate dean for basic research, biotechnology and graduate studies, and chair of the Partnership Program’s Partnership Education and Research Committee, “The Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute’s Dementia Diagnostic Clinics represent a network of more than 35 clinics statewide, serving more than 3,000 new patients annually in both rural and urban Wisconsin communities. By providing new resources to the clinicians within this network and by developing a new curriculum for future health care providers, this highly innovative project truly has the potential to transform the diagnosis and care of patients with dementia.”

About the Wisconsin Partnership Program

The Wisconsin Partnership Program was established at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in 2004, through an endowment gift from Blue Cross Blue Shield United of Wisconsin’s conversion to a stock insurance corporation. To date, the Wisconsin Partnership Program has awarded more than 480 research, education and community partnership grants toward improving the health of the people of Wisconsin.