This article is a MBWC collaboration with Lynne Korte, MPH, Dementia Care Program – Policy Analyst, Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, WA State Department of Social and Health Services.
The Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, developed by the Dementia Action Collaborative, is a call to action for the legislature and healthcare sector around dementia. The State Plan plan sets out visionary goals and recommendations on raising awareness, ensuring early and accurate diagnosis and treatment, and improving supports and services for families.
Tailored to both public and professional audiences, the State Plan also serves as an update on the current landscape of dementia, including advances in knowledge about brain health and dementia risk factors, population trends, improvements in state programs to expand long term care supports, and new dementia-related public health initiatives, state funding, and community resources.
The DAC released the first State Plan in 2016 and the second one in late 2023. “We had no dedicated funding at the time the first plan was published,” says Lynne Korte, Dementia Care Program/Policy Analyst for Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA)/DSHS, “but the workgroup that developed the plan wanted to see it implemented. They formed into the DAC and with leadership from the original steering team, the team focused on identifying high-value recommendations that could be accomplished through existing resources and heightened collaboration.”
This strategy worked well. Major highlights since 2016 include the creation of resources for both clinicians and families. The Dementia Road Map: A Guide for Family and Care Partners (View online English | Spanish) is key resource to increase awareness about “what to expect” over the course of dementia, what resources may be helpful at different times, and how to access services and resources. Written in a clear and positive voice, the guide helps readers understand what they can do to help and includes concrete Action Steps to take along the dementia journey. While it can be accessed online, more than 100,000 copies of the booklet have been distributed in Washington state. It has been effective in informing family care partners but has also proven useful as a tool to guide health care providers and case managers in their professional discussions with individuals.
With support from member advocacy organizations, the DAC gained support from the state legislature to fund DAC staff in four state agencies. Designated staff at Aging and Long-Term Support Administration (ALTSA), Department of Health (DOH), Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA), and Health Care Authority (HCA) each work to bring attention to dementia in their respective agencies and to support the work of the DAC in implementing selected plan recommendations.
New guidance and resources for health providers has been a key outcome of implementing the State Plan. The DAC successfully advocated to bring funding to the UW Memory and Brain Wellness Center (MBWC) to launch Project ECHO Dementia, co-led by Kris Rhoads, PhD, associate professor of neurology at the UW School of Medicine. This telementoring model brings together front-line primary health care providers from throughout Washington state to meet in a virtual conference room with an interdisciplinary panel of experts in memory loss and dementia.
“The revision of the State Plan is a great opportunity to further the work already underway, including education around detection, diagnosis and treatment of dementia for primary and specialty care providers," says Rhoads. "As one of the DAC funded efforts, Project ECHO Dementia has reached over 190 providers in 70 unique practice locations and the updated plan will extend our impact with this and other aligned work, including Dr. Barak Gaster’s Cognition in Primary Care program.”
A DAC team led by the MBWC, piloted Dementia Friends, a global public awareness movement that strives to change the way people think, act and talk about dementia. After demonstrating positive results here in Washington in 2019, the legislature funded a staff position to be housed at the UW MBWC to expand the program across the state.
“Dementia awareness has taken a great leap forward thanks to the state-funded Dementia Friends program manager position. With the program now operating in over 20 counties, Dementia Friends will continue to be a key piece of the DAC’s work for the next five years,” said Marigrace Becker. Anyone can participate in Dementia Friends Washington.
Building upon the Project ECHO Dementia virtual platform and the momentum of Dementia Friends, a DAC team also launched the Dementia Friendly Washington Learning Collaborative which acts to inspire, equip and support expansion of dementia-friendly community efforts by sharing with and learning from other individuals and organizations across the state.
The DAC also gained funding to promote early legal and advance care planning to prepare people for living with dementia. With support from the state legislature, the DAC created a Dementia Legal Planning Toolkit, and developed the Dementia Legal Planning Project. This innovative program offers free assistance to complete powers of attorney for finances and health care, health care directives, and dementia directive forms. Provided by the Washington Pro Bono Council, their staff will match eligible clients with attorneys who are trained and volunteer to provide this specialized assistance.
And, importantly, state funding was also allotted to raise public awareness in population groups at disproportionate risk for dementia. The state Department of Health has worked with contracted media organizations to conduct insight interviews and focus groups in Black, African American and Latino communities to determine culturally appropriate outreach strategies and create tailored messages around dementia and the value of early diagnosis.
“The DAC came together from their varied perspectives – long-term care, health care, public health, community organizations – and stayed engaged and pushed through the challenges together. Even throughout the pandemic, we tracked more than 1,800 hours of voluntary service each year to help address recommendations in the plan,” says Korte.
What’s happening now? The DAC, over the last year or so, engaged in a comprehensive process to update the original state plan, resulting in the 2023-2028 State Plan. This was an opportunity to recognize and build upon advancements in the dementia space. The DAC heard from the public about their greatest concerns and ideas for improvements and incorporated new knowledge and lessons learned about implementation.
- See page 117 of the 2023-2028 State Plan for possible actions for individuals and care partners and health care and public health entities.