Virtual Behavioral Medicine Program is Game Changer for People Living With Dementia
An innovative, Baycrest-developed dementia care program can reduce the need for hospital admissions by 60 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease today. The program, called the Virtual Behavioural Medicine (VBM) program, allows clinicians to assess and manage patients with severe neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia while the patients remain in their homes. VBM also supports acute care hospitals in the management of individuals with severe neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia.
“Severe symptoms such as aggression, agitation and, hallucinations are often the driving factors in people living with dementia being transferred to emergency departments, specialized behavioral units, or acute care hospitals to receive treatment and care,” says Dr. Morris Freedman, Head of Neurology at Baycrest, Scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and senior author of the study. “The VBM program is a game-changer for these individuals because it can significantly reduce the need for them to be uprooted from their homes, a move that can make their behavior worse.”
In this study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of the VBM program by reviewing the files of all patients assessed in the program, from its inception in February 2020 until the end of December 2020. They looked at the patients’ symptom severity during their initial assessment and compared them to those at the end of the study period.
Patients were referred to the VBM program from long-term care and acute care facilities, and from the community, such as private residences and retirement homes. Patients and their families, caregivers, and healthcare teams met virtually with a VBM physician who assessed the patient and prescribed interventions as needed. The VBM team then reviewed patient progress during virtual follow-up appointments on a regular basis.
The researchers found that VBM successfully reduced the proportion of patients who needed admission to a specialized inpatient unit by 60 percent. This suggests that the VBM program is highly effective for managing the majority of patients living with severe neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia without the need to physically transfer them to a specialized program, thus avoiding unnecessary and upsetting changes in their environment.
“The number of people diagnosed with dementia worldwide is expected to triple from 50 to 150 million by 2050. This means that more and more individuals and their families will be impacted by severe dementia symptoms,” says Dr. Freedman. “As a fully virtual program, VBM can be adopted worldwide and therefore has the potential to help people living with dementia everywhere to live their best possible lives.”
The VBM program is a collaborative partnership between Baycrest’s Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic and the Toronto Central Behavioural Supports for Seniors Program (TC BSSP). It is supported, in part, by the Toronto Central Local Health Integrated Network.
This study was supported in part by the Saul A. Silverman Family Foundation, the Morris Kerzner Memorial Fund, and the DH Gales Family Foundation.
With additional funding, VBM could be expanded to serve a greater number of individuals with dementia across Ontario. In addition, new VBM programs could be developed across the province by leveraging the expertise of the Baycrest VBM team.
Baycrest is a global leader in research, innovation, education, and care for older adults, with a special focus on brain health and aging. Baycrest is home to a robust research and innovation network, including one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience and aging, the Rotman Research Institute; the scientific headquarters of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, Canada’s largest national dementia research initiative; and the Baycrest-powered Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector. Baycrest helps aging adults assess, monitor, maintain and enhance cognition through an innovative portfolio of evidence-based products and services offered through its brain health company, Cogniciti.
Fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest provides excellent care for older adults combined with an extensive clinical training program for the next generation of healthcare professionals. Through these initiatives, Baycrest has remained at the forefront of the fight to defeat dementia as the organization works to help individuals Fear No AgeTM