SUMMIT, NJ – Alzheimer’s Association Greater New Jersey Chapter (AAGNJ)—the state’s leading voluntary not-for-profit health organization focused on Alzheimer’s care, support and research—teamed up with Atlantic Health System Overlook Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute last week to host a research symposium that coincides with AAGNJ’s efforts to shine light on cognitive health during Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in June.

Cheryl Ricci-Francione, executive director of AAGNJ, said the Research Symposium was an impactful event for those in need of or passionate about advancing dementia care and support as well as finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.

“The more that we learn about Alzheimer’s and related dementias, the more equipped we will be as a society to address them as a public health crisis,” she said. “Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected—patients and caregivers—and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

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“It is also mission-critical that we provide continuing education for primary care physicians, and other health professionals who care for these patients in order to help them better recognize the early signs of dementia so they can develop care plans and help coordinate referrals to specialists, sooner.”

The event featured keynote speaker Rebecca Edelmayer, Ph.D., who led a discussion entitled “Advancing the Science: The Latest in Alzheimer’s Research,” as well as two breakout sessions that included a presentation for physicians about Project ECHO and a forum for caregivers, healthcare professionals and providers and community allies.

“Dr. Edelmayer has the wonderful skill of breaking down complex scientific information, and explaining it in a manner that is understandable and relatable for all,” said Ricci-Francione. “That is really important because this disease impacts people from all different walks of life.”

Edelmayer, an internationally acclaimed scientist and the Alzheimer’s Association’s director of scientific engagement, is leading the charge in the efforts to accelerate the association’s scientific agenda of through the creation and delivery of ongoing research education.

During last week’s symposium, Edelmayer presented data on current research studies and clinical trials that highlighted the importance of accurate diagnosis and potential management with lifestyle changes in combination with medications.  

“This is a very exciting time in Alzheimer’s disease research,” said Edelmayer. “The Alzheimer’s Association is confident that better treatments, earlier detection, and prevention strategies will be available in the foreseeable future. The speed with which those achievements occur is directly related to the commitment to Alzheimer’s and dementia research.”

Another highlight of the event was a discussion and presentation for physicians about Project ECHO® (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), a free telementoring program that uses videoconferencing technology to build workforce capacity enhance primary care givers’ aptitude for addressing dementia-related disorders in their patients.

According to AAGNJ, expert multidisciplinary specialist teams and primary care practices come together in regularly scheduled collaborative, interactive learning sessions to share information and learn from each other via case-based discussions and brief didactic presentations. During this six-month bi-weekly program, primary care providers gain knowledge, confidence and access to specialty consultation so that they can deliver excellent dementia care to patients in their own communities.

The Project ECHO presentation emphasized the Alzheimer’s Association’s strategic plan—which is to “increase access to a timely diagnosis and quality care through long-term care providers and community-based providers”—and how Project ECHO seeks to further that mission.

Among the items discussed were the high-impact outcomes of the program, phases of care, benefits of participation and details about some upcoming opportunities such how to join a Primary Care Practice Team and bi-weekly meeting times.

The presentation also shed some light on the topics discussed during meetings, including but not limited to: diseases that are causing dementia; behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia; coordination of care and transition of care; advanced care planning; addressing the role and needs of informal caregivers; and more.

"I was very happy to collaborate with the Alzheimer’s Association to host their research symposium at Overlook Medical Center,” said Atlantic Health System’s Dr. Anjali Patel, a Memory and Cognitive Neurologist at Overlook Medical Center. “I believe it is important to provide the community with educational and supportive services…Conferences such as this one aide in growing awareness of different types of dementia disorders, how they are diagnosed and managed.”

Stating that Overlook Medical Center’s Memory and Cognitive Disorders program is committed to providing comprehensive care to people who are concerned about memory and thinking, Patel added that she hopes to continue working with AAGNJ and other organizations “to provide additional educational and supportive services to our community and other physicians."

“Overlook Medical Center is home to some of New Jersey’s top doctors, offering cutting-edge research, advanced technology and treatments in a compassionate, patient-centered environment,” said Ricci-Francione. “The Atlantic Neuroscience Institute is the region’s leader in neuroscience care, offering a broad range of advanced neurological, neurosurgical and neurodiagnostic services."

The second breakout session allowed members of the community at large to voice their opinions on gaps or missing dementia-related services in their community and also featured a case study on how some forward-thinking New Jersey communities have begun to address these issues.

“The Alzheimer’s Association Greater NJ Chapter was delighted to bring this free learning opportunity to our New Jersey communities,” said Ricci-Francione. “We are quite grateful to Atlantic Health System for partnering with us on community education. The more that we know about Alzheimer’s and related dementias, and the more that we share our knowledge with one another, the stronger our safety net of support becomes, for those who are impacted.”

AAGNJ, headquartered at 23 Vreeland Road in Florham Park serves the state in 14 counties, from Bergen to Ocean, The Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 HelpLine, staffed by experienced Alzheimer’s professionals, is available in more than 200 languages and can be reached at 800-272-3900. Visit alz.org/nj to learn more.

Atlantic Heal System Neuroscience, anchored at Overlook Medical Center’s Atlantic Neuroscience Institute in Summit, is the region’s leader in neuroscience care.

With a helipad dedicated to emergency neurological patient transport, a Neuro-ICU and a 29-bed neuroscience inpatient unit, Overlook Medical Center has established centers of excellence in the areas of brain tumor, concussion and traumatic brain injury; cerebrovascular disease such as stroke and aneurysm; epilepsy, memory and cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease; movement disorders such Parkinson’s disease; neuromuscular disease; spine disorders; and more. Click HERE to learn more.