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New Alzheimers center provides individualized care

The furnishings are bathed in soft greens and the large window panels allow light to trickle in and fill the rooms. Plants and a large aquarium with brightly colored fish are placed strategically throughout the 14,000-square-foot floor. Large open spaces exist throughout the kitchen and rest of the floor plan, but it’s not for luxurious living.

Alzheimer’s patients often find relief in pacing, Dave Morgan, CEO of the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute said. The decor was carefully selected to minimize anxiety for patients.

A new center designed to provide individualized care to Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers opened last Thursday on the second floor of the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute.

The $3.5 million Center for Memory Clinical Assessment, Research and Education (C.A.R.E.) uses an approach to the disease that creates a “one-stop” destination for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers to be assessed, Morgan said.

“The concept is to bring together all the necessary services for a specific disease in one place, but to have it available in a flexible enough format to have it individualized so a given patient can have his or her needs met: We call it iCare,” he said.

The center, designed to accommodate up to six half-day patients at a time, features amenities that patients would previously be sent as far away as Clearwater to use.

A Positron Emission Tomography scanning machine, purchased with $500,000 personally donated by USF President Judy Genshaft, allows patients to have diagnoses completed and allows USF researchers to study brain scans produced from the machine.

Patients can receive treatment from specialized neuropsychologists, as well as primary care physicians who offer preventative care.

“(As) with every other disease, to treat people before they get the disease is much more effective than waiting until after,” Morgan said. “For example, you’ve had a heart attack. It’s much better to lower your cholesterol ahead of time. We want to do the same things in Alzheimer’s.”

Amanda Smith, medical director of the center, said the center also offers counseling for families.

“That’s an important piece that often gets pushed to the side in the scheme of the medical things,” she said.

Many of the facilities focus on providing objective assessments to caregivers, who often are unable to detach emotion from treating the disease.

“Caregivers often think (patients’) cognitive ability is worse than it actually is, when their thinking is just fine and that their ability to perform day-to-day tasks is better than it actually is,” Morgan said.

A driving simulator will allow patients to drive in a video game-like system, with three panels simulating road conditions. The assessments will not provide legal prohibitions, but will recommend to patients and caregivers which precautions, if any, should be taken.

An apartment on the floor, which Morgan said no other Alzheimer’s facility has, will be used for an occupational therapist to assess the patient’s ability to live independently. Patients will be asked to perform tasks such as toasting a piece of bread and the therapist will note if they remember to unplug the toaster or determine the difference between fake and real foods.

“We want to help people maintain dignity and keep them out of an institution,” Morgan said.

The first patient for the center is scheduled to come in Dec. 1.