Ochsner Health System, Lambeth House Launch Pilot Program for Memory Care

Ochsner Health System and Lambeth House teamed to launch the Innovative Care in Alzheimer’s Research program – an intervention study of dementia management with interactive technology. This partnership between a continuous care retirement community and regional healthcare leader is the first of its kind in Louisiana to infuse interactive technology into its care plan for residents.

Over the course of a 12-month pilot program, Ochsner and Lambeth House will investigate the effectiveness of a customized treatment plan delivered through a pilot program utilizing remote technology, or telehealth. The study outcome variables including mortality rate, neuropsychiatric and behavioral symptoms, quality of life, activity engagement, staff and family caregiving burden, clinical health status, and healthcare utilization. Lambeth House staff will undergo specific training to facilitate the program, which focuses on the 16 residents in Mercer’s Way – the memory care unit at Lambeth House where residents have various types and stages of dementia.

The World Health Organization estimates 50 million people worldwide have dementia – a general term that refers to the severe decline of mental function. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the condition with a new diagnosis every 67 seconds in the United States. Dementia follows three stages of progression with increasingly serious symptoms:

-Mild Dementia – difficulty remembering words and names; learning and remembering new information; planning and managing complicated activities such as driving; experiencing sadness, anxiety, or disinterest in once enjoyable activities.

-Moderate Dementia –  ​poor judgment, problems with personal hygiene, inappropriate language, and wandering.

-Severe Dementia – extensive memory loss, limited or no mobility, difficulty swallowing, bowel and bladder control issues, and difficulty recognizing family members and caregivers.

As part of the program, each patient is outfitted with an iPad along with a Fitbit to monitor sleep and movement. Once a month, Mercer’s Way residents will participate in a 30- to 60-minute telehealth visit with an Ochsner neuropsychologists – a type of psychologist that specializes in understanding the relationship between the physical brain and behavior. These visits will be conducted virtually through an iPad, where a specialist is able to consult patients in the same way as an in-person appointment through Ochsner’s technology. The monthly visits will be in addition to their current care plan with Lambeth House and will assess various aspects of a patient’s wellness plan, including cognitive, behavioral, and environmental factors.

“Routine is critically important for patients suffering with dementia and other neurological diseases. Even something as seemingly simple as leaving the facility to go to a doctor’s appointment can result in unnecessary confusion and stress for a patient,” said Robert John Sawyer, PhD, co-director, Cognitive Disorders and Brain Health Program, Department of Neurology and Neurosciences at Ochsner Health System. “By leveraging telehealth, this partnership enables Ochsner to bring high-quality neurological care to these residents in a familiar setting.”

Sawyer added, “Integrating interactive technology into the unit at Lambeth House is believed to be beneficial both to residents and the care team. Residents use the iPads to play music and communicate with their loved ones face to face, which has anecdotally had a positive impact on anxiety and mood. For the care team, the data collected from the Fitbit provides valuable insights on sleep and movement patterns, which can inform adjustments to individual care plans.”

“Lambeth House is, and has always been, progressive and forward-thinking in its approach to providing services that support older adults,” said Jeré Hales, chief operating officer, Lambeth House. “Through our partnership with Ochsner, we hope to leverage technology to further elevate our high-quality care. We believe that this program has the potential to drastically improve the care and lives of seniors at Lambeth House, regionally and beyond.”

Funding for the Innovative Care in Alzheimer’s Research program is made possible through the Lambeth House Foundation.  

The department of Neurology at Ochsner is actively involved in studies involving memory loss, including dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease. Ochsner is the only program in Louisiana listed in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals ranking across three specialty categories, where it is number 38 in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery.