Regenstrief Alzheimer’s program expands

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — A program to train nursing home staff in advance care planning for residents with Alzheimer’s disease is expanding to over 170 nursing homes across the country. The pilot program was a success at Regenstrief Institute and was led by Indiana University researchers, which resulted in the National Institute on Aging awarding a $3 million grant for the next phase. 

Scientists Kathleen Unroe and Susan Hickman led the program by developing an intervention named Advance Care Specialist Program. The program trains nursing home staff to teach other employees and to introduce procedures to help advance care planning for residents. The team worked with three different companies who run nursing facilities to develop the program.

The planning involves discussions with patients and family members about goals, treatment preferences and values. The preferences are then formalized in documents that ensure future treatment coincides with the stated preferences. 

“Every person living in a nursing home deserves to receive care consistent with their treatment preferences,” said Dr. Unroe. “We can’t honor preferences if we don’t know what they are, if we don’t know where to access them, or if we don’t communicate them between providers. This project aims to bring consistency and quality to the process of advance care planning.”

The program’s second phase will randomly assign about 170 nursing facilities to either implement the program or continue with their normal procedures. 

“We believe ACP is essential to ensuring care that is truly patient-centered,” said Dr. Hickman. “APPROACHES is specifically designed to provide nursing facilities with the tools necessary to support residents and families in these important conversations.”

ACP specialists training modules are available online and are integrated with the facilities’ systems.