Catch dementia early, specialized care comes to the panhandle

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SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (KNEP) There is an open house at WNCC Harms Center on February 8th where seniors and anyone interested, can learn about a grant which will allow for seniors to receive specialized care. Dr. Nancy Meier D.N.P. interviewed with NBC from the newly appointed Geriatric Cognitive & Mental Health Project for Rural Nebraska.

She acquired a grant last fall from Women Investing in Nebraska to provide access to specialized cognitive and mental health for seniors.
“This grant is really one of the first that we’ve been able to get out here. Most of the grants go to bigger universities, bigger projects. And so, it was very exciting that we were able to get this grant.”

The panhandle’s 11 counties are all listed as “under-served” for mental health care. Dr. Meier said that she will be using the grant money to travel and make services available in rural areas. The grant will be used for screenings, assessment, treatment plans, education, and providing access for all of the above.

Also, Dr. Meier says one of the goals of the assessment is to catch dementia early, to identify and reach people early in stages, provide the diagnosis, the treatments, so people can stay at home longer.

Assessments can also rule out other causes of symptoms that mimic dementia. “Part of my background is that I’m also a geriatric nurse practitioner, and looking at the older client and identifying what’s the source of any symptoms that they may be having.” Said Meier.

She said that often treatable illnesses mimic dementia. Some people struggle with uncomfortable symptoms, when an assessment could lead to a diagnosis and treatment, restoring quality of life. “It could be their medications, it could be their thyroid is off, they’re maybe not getting the diet that they need and that’s another help I can provide. To identify ‘what’s really going on here’”

Part of Meier’s role as UNMC assistant professor is to teach geriatric care, and the grant will assist in providing training for nurse practitioners in comprehensive geriatric assessments and psychiatric evaluations. With more information and training available, nurse practitioners will have more tools to assist seniors. Tools that Dr. Meier hopes will stay in the community long after the grant season is ended. Not only will she continue to provide care after the year is up, she is providing training that she hopes will stay here.

“I am also training nurse practitioner students from the college of nursing with the hope that they will stay and take over. When I am finished providing whatever care that I can”

Also, there will be training and information about dementia, the types of dementias and symptoms provided to care givers, family members, and seniors.

“We are looking for family members, people who suspect that they have these symptoms that may be.. that sound like they may be losing their memory.”

By working with health fairs, hospitals, clinics, and other providers, Dr. Meier will be able to provide services in the panhandle that will make it much easier for residents to access specialized care.

Dr. Meier said that she wants to work with patient’s personal providers. Primary care physicians will receive information from assessments, and patients will receive the benefit of specialized geriatric care.

You can reach the Geriatric Cognitive and mental health Project for Rural Nebraska at (308)632-0415

Or stop by the college Friday February 8th from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Plex Room located in the John N. Harms Center at Western Nebraska Community College, 2620 College Park in Scottsbluff.

The public is welcome to attend.

(Update: a previous version of this story gave the wrong date for the Open House. The date has been corrected. )