New research collaboration to enhance integrated primary care workforce for people and families living with Alzheimer’s and related disorders
Louisiana State University School of Social Work in partnership with Ochsner Health System, Chamberlain University College of Nursing and Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area in Baton Rouge is proud to announce a 5-year, $3.73 million initiative to improve the quality of life for Louisiana residents and families living with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, or ADRD. Since its inception in 2014, this federal grant program has approved 92 proposals. The LSU School of Social Work is one of only three social work programs nationally to receive this funding recognition.
By 2030, older Americans will account for nearly 30 percent of the nation’s populace. In the coming decades, demand is expected to increase exponentially for health care professionals who treat and care for older adults, including multidisciplinary, integrated teams in primary care settings. This innovative grant program will combine and train three disciplines: social workers, nurses and physicians.
Funded by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, the program titled, Louisiana Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program, or LA-GWEP*: Improving the Quality of Integrated Primary Care among Persons with Dementia and Caregivers, is committed to enhancing dementia-friendly integrated practice in Louisiana primary care settings; and by doing so, it aims to improve health and wellbeing for Louisianans with ADRD diagnoses and their caregivers. LA-GWEP will offer ADRD and dementia care experts to provide curriculum and experiential training, including the state-certified Dementia Training for Health Professionals program, to medical, nursing and social work practitioners, and to academic faculty and students within these disciplines across south Louisiana.
“We know that families and caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders often see their primary care physicians, rather than neurologists, for a variety of reasons including familiarity, comfort level and shorter appointment wait times. We expect that this program will close the gap in dementia-friendly practice between their primary care physicians compared to a specialist,” said Scott Wilks, LSU School of Social Work professor who leads LA-GWEP. “Health care providers and students across south Louisiana will have access to training and support that increases their knowledge of ADRD, and that knowledge will translate into better overall care for Louisiana residents diagnosed with ADRD, and better support for family members and other caregivers.”
Louisiana has about 50 certified geriatricians to serve more than 400,000 older adults, including acute need for care in rural areas. This research and training grant will bridge a critical gap in expertise. Wilks and his colleagues aim to train and develop the workforce to meet this ever-growing need and improve quality of life for the citizens of Louisiana. Nationally, there is a demand for 70,000 geriatric social workers. However, only 10 percent of these social workers are currently in the workforce. Given that only 4 percent of licensed social workers and less than 1 percent of registered nurses currently identify themselves as specialized or certified in geriatrics, this research can provide important insights and create programs that other states may replicate.
LA-GWEP is under the leadership of principal investigator Wilks, who is also the gerontology specialization coordinator at the LSU School of Social Work. LA-GWEP co-investigators, who represent its organizational partners, include:
- Cassie Dinecola, assistant professor, LSU Social Work
- Catherine Lemieux, professor, LSU Social Work
- Dr. Lydia Bazzano, internal medicine, Ochsner
- Jennifer Couvillon, president, Chamberlain University, New Orleans Campus at Ochsner
- Barbara Auten, executive director, Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area.
Special appreciation goes to additional people at Ochsner Health System whose devoted support and assistance are vital to the success of this critically needed program for Louisiana residents and families living with ADRD:
- Dr. Leonardo Seoane, chief academic officer and senior vice-president
- Shelly Monks, system vice president, academic affairs
- Dr. Susan Nelson, system chair of palliative medicine
- Dr. Ronald Amadee, dean of medical education
- John Sawyer II, co-director, Cognitive Disorders & Brain Health Program
- Matt Estrade, Office of Grants Development
Finally, LA-GWEP thanks two people in the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education for their unique expertise: Judith Rhodes, director of the LSU Social Research and Evaluation Center and Terri Michel, director of Post Award and Accounting, Office of Financial Services.
* LA-GWEP is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, as part of an award totaling $3,726,322.00. The contents of the above statement are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.
Scott E. Wilks holds lifelong titles as a Gerontological Society of America, or GSA, fellow and John A. Hartford Foundation Faculty Scholar in Geriatric Social Work. GSA is the nation’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education and practice in gerontology and geriatrics. The Hartford Foundation is the nation’s largest private philanthropy dedicated to the health and well-being of older adults. Wilks maintains the following positions within the LSU School of Social Work: professor, Ph.D. program director, graduate specialization in gerontology coordinator and director of the Behavioral Health Workforce Education & Training program. He has been a faculty member with LSU Life Course & Aging Center since 2006. His overarching research agenda is the health and well-being of older adults; specifically, health disparities among individuals and families living with ADRD, including primary caregivers. Wilks is prominently published in social work and interprofessional journals related to health and aging. In the previous six years, he has directed research projects and programs supported by more than $7.1 million from state and national sources. Locally, his research and community service include interdisciplinary collaborations with AARP – Louisiana chapter, Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, Hospice of Baton Rouge, Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge and Poydras Home Retirement Community of Greater New Orleans.