April 5, 2017

The UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center hosted a press conference yesterday to explain the importance of the updated Alzheimer’s Clinical Care Guideline and the revised Medicare reimbursement code for care planning services for people with cognitive impairment. The new tools are designed to help improve early detection, treatment and outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

Charles DeCarli Charles DeCarli

The press conference, attended by several print and broadcast media representatives, featured Alzheimer’s Disease Center Director Charles DeCarli and Michelle Johnston, regional director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association. Two family caregivers, Barbara Marquez of Fair Oaks and Pablo Espinoza of Elk Grove, also spoke about their own experiences caring for family members with dementia and the need for more resources available to primary care providers.

“Alzheimer’s and dementia can be hard to diagnose, particularly in the primary care setting,” said DeCarli. The new guideline, he said, will give clinicians the time they need to properly assess patients and develop a comprehensive care plan, which will help patients as well as their caregivers.

More than 630,000 Californians are living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia and the number is expected to surge to 840,000 by 2025. The disease is the fifth leading cause of death in California, said Johnston, but fewer than half of patients with the disease have been diagnosed by a healthcare professional.

The new state guideline includes protocols for providers to address the patient directly, including identification of the caregiver; annual monitoring and reassessment of cognitive status and related conditions and treatment of emotional, behavioral and mood symptoms; and education and support, including help with home and community-based programs and services.

The new Medicare code, which went into effect in January, provides reimbursement to clinicians for care planning services for Medicare beneficiaries who are cognitively impaired. The code covers cognition evaluation, functional assessment, evaluation of neurospsychiatric and behavioral symptoms, evaluation of safety, identification of caregivers, advance care planning and creation of a care plan, among other areas.