Reflections During Alzheimer's Awareness Month: LSU School of Social Work Partners with Ochsner Health, Chamberlain University College of Nursing, and Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area

In 2022, it is estimated that 6.5 million Americans ages 65 and older are living with Alzheimer's Disease (Alzheimer's Association, 2022). The LSU School of Social Work is addressing a crucial need - the need for competent care teams and practices for this growing population.

Partnering with Ochsner Health, Chamberlain University College of Nursing, and Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area in Baton Rouge, LSU School of Social Work is leading a 5-year, $3.73 million initiative to improve the lives of Louisiana residents and families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, or ADRD.

An innovative, collaborative approach to care

The project is called Louisiana Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program, or LA-GWEP, and it aims to improve health and wellbeing of Louisiana residents living with ADRD and their caregivers; and improve dementia-friendly practice in Louisiana primary care settings among health professionals in medicine, nursing, and social work.

The important work of LA-GWEP is hard to overstate. The team of professionals is improving the quality of life and the health and wellbeing of Louisianans who identify as persons with dementia (PWDs). An often overlooked aspect of this issue is the caregivers. Caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) are also a target population of this program.

One of the objectives of the LA-GWEP grant project is to "enhance person-centered quality of care to persons with dementia in primary care settings." The dementia engagement kits that are placed in our targeted 29 Ochsner Health primary care clinics do this by allowing the patients to be stimulated in a positive way as they often experience agitation, mistrust, or frustration when visiting the clinics as a result of their dementia diagnosis. The kits often transform the clinic visit into a patient-focused experience rather than just a medical visit.

African American male in a doctor's office with a dementia engagement kit
The patient shown above is using a dementia engagement kit, which is a box of items used to assist persons with dementia in remaining calm and stimulated during their visits to primary care clinics. Photo by Dr. Kathy Jo Carstarphen.

dementia engagement kit with games and activities

Dementia engagement kits include a latches activity board, 36-piece puzzle, slinky, steel ball maze, nut and bolt set, playable art ball, and jellyfish lamp.

Elderly woman in hospital with a dementia engagement kit
The patient shown above is using a dementia engagement kit, which is a box of items used to assist persons with dementia in remaining calm and stimulated during their visits to primary care clinics. Photo by Dr. Kathy Jo Carstarphen.


African American female and White female holding clipboard and tablet and taking with a white male doctor holding model of the human brain

Master of Social Work interns Miya Tate and Maisie Baudier consult with Dr. John Sawyer.

How the program works

LA-GWEP places interns across three disciplines (social work, medicine, and nursing) in a neuropsychology clinic to provide telehealth as a team for persons with dementia and their families. Providing telehealth furthers the accessibility that persons with dementia and their caregivers have to age-friendly care on their terms.

Over the initial three years of the grant, the LA-GWEP team is excited to see organizational changes to improve care. All Ochsner Health medical students are required to complete training in ADRD care prior to graduation. This is the first, ADRD-specific curriculum requirement in the medical school's history. By providing geriatric training to Chamberlain School of Nursing students and creating the GWEP Nursing Fellows Program, LA-GWEP is the only federally-funded program to enhance nursing education at Chamberlain in New Orleans with a certificate in dementia, enhancing geriatric nursing care. Chamberlain University has the largest nursing school in the country.

Thank you so much for this extraordinary learning opportunity. I have learned an incredible amount about the needs of dementia patients as well as their caregivers. The didactic portion provided the knowledge base for providing care for patients with dementia, and the clinical portion including Teepa Snow's PAC workshops really brought everything together. This fellowship truly shined by bringing the three professional disciplines together showing us how holistic care is provided through an interdisciplinary approach. I will remember to put what I have learned into practice while providing care to patients and their caregivers.
-Hoang Nguyen, Chamberlain Nursing Student and GWEP Nursing Fellow

The LA-GWEP Medical Fellowship program at Ochsner was started to support up to four postdoctoral trainees. The goal of this fellowship program is to provide recent medical school graduates with knowledge of best practices for caring for and communicating with ADRD patients and their caregivers and experiential training in implementing such practices into healthcare settings.

Upon completing the fellowship, trainees will better understand geriatric principles of management, hospital infrastructure, how to create new patient-focused initiatives with a team, interdisciplinary project management, integration of the 4Ms in primary care and other settings, and how to create system-wide interventions to address a healthcare quality issue with an evidence-based approach. The 4Ms are tools that address the gap between the health care for older adults and the care that health systems practice. The 4Ms include: 1) What Matters--knowing and acting on each patient's specific health goals and their preference for care; 2) Mobility--how to assist older adults maintain mobility and prevent or treat complications with mobility; 3) Medication--focus on medications affecting mobility, mentation, and what matters; and 4) Mentation--focus on delirium and depression. The medical fellows’ training includes reviewing charts, extracting data from EPIC (the electronic medical record system), creating EPIC infrastructure for the 4Ms, reporting out in a Plan-Study-Do-Act (PSDA) format how to improve the process, and experientially learning while training other clinicians on how to use new tools, with the ultimate goal of learning how to implement and communicate best practices in future settings. 

Meet the LA-GWEP team

LSU School of Social Work

  • Scott Wilks, PhD, LMSW
  • Laura Ainsworth, PhD, LCSW-BACS
  • Catherine Lemieux, PhD, ACSW, LCSW-BACS
  • Jessica Wilkinson, LCSW

Ochsner Health

  • Kathy Jo Carstarphen, MD, MPH, MA
  • John Sawyer, PhD, ABPP-CN
  • Matt Estrade, MBA, MA
  • Brian Mizuki, PsyD, ABPP-CN
  • Nancy Insidioso, LCSW
  • Susan Nelson, MD 

Chamberlain University College of Nursing 

  • Jennifer Couvillon, PhD, RN-BC, FNP, CNE

Alzheimer's Serivces of the Capital Area

  • Barbara Auten, CFRE

"I am tremendously proud of the work we’ve put forth with our partners — Ochsner Health, Chamberlain Nursing, and Alzheimer’s Services — to enhance ADRD friendly services in primary care. As we fold this program with the Life Course & Aging Center, Dr. Laura Ainsworth (Center Associate Director) and I are blessed to work alongside an incredible, interdisciplinary team dedicated to promoting healthy aging in Louisiana. We are directing our next steps to positively impact the health and wellbeing of vulnerable older adults through interdisciplinary applied research by engaging students and the larger community in advancing knowledge related to healthy aging; improving lives through the dissemination of knowledge and policy development; and increasing the capacity to address the challenges of aging through strategic partnerships and education of the workforce." - Scott E. Wilks, PhD, LMSW | LA-GWEP Program Director | LSU Life Course & Aging Center Director