In North Dakota, Alzheimer’s Patients Battle More Than Just the Disease
North Dakota is considered a 'neurology desert' according to a new report from the Alzheimer's Association.
The Alzheimer's Association International Conference was held in London and apparently many regions of the United States are facing issues regarding a shortage of neurologists coupled with an increase in patients with dementia including Alzheimer's.
The report says that North Dakota is No. 2 on the list of states considered 'neurology deserts,' and are among the states with, "the most significant projected gap between the available neurology workforce and the health needs of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias in 2025," according to the report.
However, Beth Kallmyer, the Vice President of Constituent Services at the Alzheimer's Association, said in the release that, "you may not need a neurologist in every case." She continued, "With the right training and tools, primary care physicians can effectively diagnose and treat Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer's Association is working to arm primary care physicians with the tools they need to manage an increased case load, as well as care planning guidance."
Erin Hagen is the Community Engagement Manager for the Minnesota-Dakota chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. She said, "unfortunately people in our area often struggle to find quality healthcare for the initial diagnosis as well as continued care for the progress of dementia. The Alzheimer's Association aims to work closely with healthcare professionals and families through education and to help navigate a diagnose and with the progression of the disease."
According to the Alzheimer's Association, in 2014, there were 364 deaths across the state due to Alzheimer's. It was the third leading cause of death in the state. Additionally, 20 percent of all North Dakota patients in hospice care have a primary diagnosis of some form of dementia. There are 467 patients in hospice with a primary diagnosis of Alzheimer's.
Abby Beumer is a Regional Care Consultant for the Alzheimer's Association. She works in Bismarck and works directly with patients in the southwestern fourth of North Dakota.
"I work with many families who either did not have the resources or knowledge of how to find a diagnosis and went without for years, struggling on their own," Beumer said via email. "Some will go to one of the two Neuropsychologists in BisMan or (if they have the resources) they will either go to Billings, MT; Mayo in Rochester or some will go as far as Sioux Falls. Some of the families I work with used to snowbird and were able to get a diagnosis in the southern part of the country."
We reached out to CHI St. Alexius and Sanford to ask if they were taking measures to try and recruit more neurologists to the area. CHI St. Alexius did not respond to inquiries. The Medical Officer at Sanford Health in Bismarck, Chris Meeker, released this statement to us:
Neurologists are a need not only in North Dakota but nationwide. At Sanford Health in Bismarck, we are recruiting highly qualified neurologists but also have a full staff of neurologists providing comprehensive neurologic services, including stroke care, seizure management, dementia and many other neurological conditions. In addition, Sanford Health has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for certification as a Primary Stroke Center.”
There will be a 'Walk to End Alzheimer's' in Bismarck on September 23rd. You can get details here.