As Wisconsin faces steep Alzheimer’s diagnosis rates in its aging population, the Helen Bader Foundation has stepped in with a $1.5 million grant to help the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute step up its research and outreach efforts surrounding the disease.
According to statistics from the WAI, which is an academic center attached to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, by 2025 approximately 130,000 Wisconsin residents over the age of 65 will suffer from Alzheimer’s.
The recent grant from the Milwaukee-based Helen Bader Foundation, to be rolled out over five years, will contribute to a series of five programs aimed at advancing the WAI’s mission to help physicians diagnosis Alzheimer’s sooner as well as raise greater awareness of care and treatment options.
Included in the five programs is a statewide healthcare provider education and outreach program, which will serve primary care providers with educational resources tied to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Nearly half of all people suffering from Alzheimer’s in the United States are not diagnosed, according to the WAI, and about half that have been diagnosed are not treated properly.
The statewide outreach program will teach physicians more about the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and how to make an appropriate diagnosis.
“If physicians don’t have a knowledge base of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, they may not have the competencies to be able to recognize it,” said Kate Kowalski, administrator for the WAI.
In addition to helping physicians better understand the signs of Alzheimer’s, the WAI’s programming will also include a marketing campaign designed to help the general public better understand the disease.
The campaign will be particularly useful for individuals living in rural and underserved communities, Kowalski said.
The more that individuals can be informed about Alzheimer’s and other dementias and then encouraged to talk to their providers, the more they can begin to demand better care and better diagnosis, she said.
Additionally, the $1.5 million grant will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the WAI and strengthen its partnership with a group of researchers in Israel studying Alzheimer’s disease. The grant will also better bridge the institute with the public under the “Wisconsin Idea” initiative, a UW-Madison philosophy that focuses on applying university research to the public sector.
“The resources at the medical school are also the resources that can be used outside the medical school to improve the health and wellbeing of the citizens of the state,” said Dr. Mark Sager, an internist geriatrician at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and director of the WAI.
The Helen Bader Foundation’s grant, which represents the single largest grant it has awarded in about six years, adds to its past support of the WAI and reinforces its vision to help individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s have a better quality of life.
“What we hope through this grant is that people, whether they live in urban Milwaukee or other parts of rural Wisconsin…have access to the best diagnosis, the best information and the best care for those who have Alzheimer’s,” said Foundation President Dan Bader.