Dr. Lama Alameddine recently received the Alzheimer’s Champion Award for being the Community Partner of the Year in 2018—and for good reason too! In her line of work as a neuropsychologist, Dr. Alameddine saw a need for people living with dementia that wasn’t being filled, so she took action.
She believes that neurological conditions impact people in many ways, including their sense of identity and their relationships with family and friends. Yet the tendency is to focus on management of medical symptoms. This is why Dr. Alameddine created the Cognitive Health and Memory Patient (C.H.A.M.P.) Clinic at UW Medicine | Valley Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute.
The C.H.A.M.P. Clinic consists of neuropsychologists, as well as a nurse practitioner, medical assistant and social worker from the Alzheimer’s Association to provide answers for a wide range of questions and situations that may arise in the management of dementia. Think of it as a team of people who address different areas of concern about dementia and your health, including questions about care planning, caregiving techniques, legal and financial matters and community resources.
“I wanted to build a model of care where we address patients and their families’ needs, not just from a medical perspective, but also from a social and psychological perspective. The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading organization when it comes to dementia resources and care, so it seemed natural to bring in the experts to help with guiding these patients and their families through their journeys. I also felt it would be a great opportunity to help create access for the organization in hopes more people can be reached for services,” said Dr. Alameddine.
The C.H.A.M.P. Clinic is the first of its kind in Washington. Dr. Alameddine said that her vision behind creating it was to help remove the stigma of dementia and aging. “I would like to help patients maintain dignity and quality of life by changing perspectives that, even though they live with dementia, they are NOT dementia.”
She would also like to change how chronic conditions are viewed and managed. “If we have conversations early, provide help and resources and get affairs into place before we reach a crisis, patients and their families can live a fulfilling life knowing that they are not going through this process alone and have the support of a team of experts on their side,” she explained.
As a neuropsychologist, Dr. Alameddine says that her role at the C.H.A.M.P. Clinic is “patient-specific and can consist of anything from assessing cognitive status and decision-making capacity, opening up conversations about future care planning and things to consider, doing psycho-education around the diagnosis, supporting caregivers and families through the process, to helping patients with end-of-life decision making.”
Are there benefits to this collaborative approach to care? Dr. Alameddine says yes. There are limits to what one healthcare provider can offer a patient. With a team, each person provides a different area of expertise, which removes some of those roadblocks.
When a person is visiting the C.H.A.M.P. Clinic, they can expect an experience tailored to their needs. “We do warm handoffs and explain everyone’s role in the clinic and what they can provide for care. We also let patients and their families know that we are available for contact outside their usual appointment times if something should arise. From start to finish, the idea that a team approach is needed and utilized to help care and support these patients and their families is reiterate. Our goal is to help keep the family dynamic intact as best as possible,” said Dr. Alameddine.
What’s next for the C.H.A.M.P Clinic? “I am lucky to work in a supportive environment at Valley Medical Center and I will be looking for opportunities to continue growing this clinic,” Dr. Alameddine said. “We are already moving in that direction as we add on more providers and open up more appointments slots. We are booking out for some months now and have a waitlist! I would also love to see similar clinics spread across Washington State so we can create more access to this kind of support, and I am happy to spearhead that project.”