Reporting Matt Roush
ANN ARBOR — 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,” said Torres, 58, of Ypsilanti Township. “It was so frustrating. I even had a social worker friend trying to help me. And finally I got somebody.”
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 UM 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., 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 UM Memory Connection call center is a great start to solving that problem.”
The UM Memory Connection is designed to be a one-stop resource to learn about and connect to UM 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,” Paulson said. “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.”
UM 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 UM Geriatrics Center, social work and community programs, the Housing Bureau for Seniors and the Drive-Ability program through UM’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,” said Cassie Starback, coordinator o the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “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.”
UM Memory Connection was developed in collaboration with the UM Dementia Consortium, which was established by the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The consortium is comprised of various UM departments and institutions, such as Neurology, Geriatrics Center, UM School of Public Health, UM School of Social Work and also the local chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Torres said she’s glad to know that UM 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.”
The University of Michigan’s Department of Neurology 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 at www.med.umich.edu.