Contrary to what most people may think, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, but it is a cause of death. It is the 6th leading cause of death in this country. Experts say getting diagnosed early is key to manage this disease. That’s why UT Health Austin’s Comprehensive Memory Center was recently recognized by the Texas Health and Human Services commission for their work with Alzheimer’s patients. And, it’s right here in Austin. KXAN’s Sally Hernandez spoke about the program with Alyssa Aguirre, MSW, LCSW-S, clinical social worker and manager of the Comprehensive Memory Center.
Tell us about the Innovators in Aging Award?
This is the first year that Texas Health and Human Services have given out the award. The Award recognizes agencies and creative programs that are having a positive impact on the quality of life for older adults living in Texas.
What is the Comprehensive Memory Center?
The Comprehensive Memory Center is a neurology clinic within the Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia and other cognitive conditions that impact memory and thinking.
The Center is unique to Austin, why is it important?
The Center was selected for handling dementia care in way that very different in three major ways:
- 1st: We have a person-centered, team-based approach. Starting with a group of specialists who see the patient and family together on the same day. In traditional dementia care, families may have to see several specialists at different locations which may take months to get a diagnosis. The Center tries to minimize the burden on families by providing those services in one location.
- 2nd: We know dementia is a disease that impacts the entire family, not just the patient. Our team offers support and counseling for all family members and the patient.
- 3rd: We work together with the patient and the family to create a written care plan. It’s like a road map to help guide them with next steps, guide them to referrals, to research opportunities, programs in the community and support groups.
How do you know whether someone is just being forgetful or whether it is a sign of serious illness?
Everyone forgets things periodically, but when it starts to impact your everyday life. If you have memory concerns about yourself or your loved ones, you can always contact us at UT health Austin at 1-833-UT-CARES (1-833-882-2737) or you can ask your healthcare provider for a referral.
Are you taking in new patients?
Absolutely! Alyssa Aguirre explains that the most important thing to remember is that people are not alone. The team is there to support them for the journey and we would love to help them with a diagnosis.
At what age do you begin to see patients?
When you think of Alzheimer’s we tend to think of elderly individuals, however there are a certain percentage of people who show symptoms before the age of 65. That’s called young onset Alzheimer’s disease or young onset dementia. We can help them get a diagnosis and get to the bottom of what’s going on and come up with a plan for what’s next. There really is hope.