Who Makes Up the Modern Dementia Care Team?

May 21, 2022
Kevin Kunzmann

It takes even more than a village to provide the comprehensive care needed for aging, neurocognitive patients, says Rajesh R. Tampi, MD, MS.

Perhaps more than any common condition, dementia is treated by a diverse array of caregivers in and out of medicine.

In the second segment of an interview with HCPLive during the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2022 Annual Meeting in New Orleans this week, Rajesh R. Tampi, MD, MS, professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry at Creighton University School of Medicine, transitioned from describing the “what” of dementia definition and treatment, to the “who” of dementia care team members.

“I always say this when I do my talk: it takes a village, and even a city or a country to take care of an older patient, because they have more comorbidity,” Tampi said. “You have to assemble a care team that includes physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, nurses, psychologists, medical students, caregivers. The caregivers are central to the treatment of these illnesses.”

Speaking specifically to caregivers—whether hired part-time or full-time aides, or simply loved ones of the patients—Tampi emphasized their invaluable insight into the patients’ needs and their impact on care outcomes.

“We have to recognize the service that our caregivers are providing for patients with dementia,” Tampi said. “If a caregiver does not do well, no matter what you do, the patient will not do well.”

While patients with dementia only constitute approximately 4-5% of most nursing home and long-term care facility populations, Tampi stressed their care team’s similarly crucial role in caring for the aging population.

“If you do anything to the nursing home industry, you will see so many problems you can’t even imagine,” Tampi said. “People would be sitting in emergency rooms and acute care hospitals longer than ever. Our economy and our health care system would collapse.”

Tampi discussed why he believes leadership and legislators need to consider alterations to the US health care system that provides more funding and resources for primary care practice, preventive care systems and social workers, who all play pivotal roles in the behavioral and health care of older adults.

Lastly, Tampi emphasized the importance of specialists in and out of primary care, neurology and otherwise in acknowledging their role in treating patients with dementia.

“You don’t realize if you’re a cardiologist, a thoracic surgeon, a neurologist, a nephrologist, a social worker, a primary care doctor, or even a layperson: you are a geriatric mental health provider,” he said. “At some stage, you’re going to touch lives, because we are an aging society. What’s the best way to providing care, is for all of us to be in unity to agree that we have a collective responsibility of taking care of neurocognitive adults.”


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