A centerpiece of the Healthy Aging Initiative is UC Davis Health’s new interdisciplinary Healthy Aging Clinic — designed to provide comprehensive services that preserve the functionality and independence of older-adult patients, while at the same time supporting their family caregivers.
Located in midtown Sacramento, the new and growing outpatient clinic is a one-stop location where older adults can receive care from a number of geriatric specialists, including physicians, advanced practice providers, physical therapists, pharmacists, case managers and cognitive specialists.
“We care for older adults who have a variety of geriatric syndromes,” said the clinic’s interim medical director Alia Tuqan, M.D., a board-certified geriatrician who previously led the Division of Geriatrics at the University of Nevada, Reno, in an interview this spring. “We are seeing older adults, especially those with frailty, memory problems and dementia, and gait instability and falls.
“These older adults tend to be experiencing functional decline, have multiple chronic conditions and are on multiple medications.”
Among those now available to provide expanded services for them are faculty from the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s growing team of geriatric neurology experts. Last fall the center added behavioral neurologist David Bissig, M.D., Ph.D., and neuropsychologist Alyssa Weakley, Ph.D., who see clinic patients and conduct research to support patients with dementia.
Both have special interest and expertise in cognitive and neurodegenerative conditions such as mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s dementia and vascular dementia.
They’re the beginning of what Alzheimer’s center director Charles DeCarli, M.D., hopes will grow into a larger geriatric program that involves expanding cognitive assessment for those who need it.
“When we lag in cognitive evaluations, patients come in sicker, which leads to a cascade of problems,” DeCarli said. “But we know that with early detection, patients and their caregivers earn confidence through education. That assessment could even change a diagnosis and alter a course of treatment.”
Meanwhile, providers at the Healthy Aging Clinic also recognize that older-adult family caregivers play a critical role in the health team. The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing’s Family Caregiving Institute has two private rooms at the clinic where staff can consult with caregivers to help understand their concerns and challenges.
“We offer consultation to support caregivers in their monumental role tending to an older adult. We also have training services, so we can teach them how to do complex tasks such as managing medications and caring for wounds,” said caregiving institute director Terri Harvath, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., F.G.S.A. “The inclusion of services and attention to family caregivers really sets UC Davis Health apart from other health systems.”
The Healthy Aging Clinic began accepting referrals and seeing patients in mid-January as part of a soft-launch phase, with a full-scale opening expected fall 2021 (as of press time). Providers began by offering geriatrics consults and family caregiving services, and continue to bring additional experts and disciplines into the mix, such as neurology, neuropsychology and geriatric psychiatry.
In the future, the clinic will also be a hub for learners in the health professions, including precepting with medical students and residents at the School of Medicine and nurse practitioner and physician assistant students at the School of Nursing.