Marilyn Klug and other researchers at the University of North Dakota say their state’s Dementia Care Services Program may have reduced use of acute medical services and helped keep people at home.

Program organizers spent $1.2 million in state grant money.

The program may have already prevented $800,000 in medical spending, and it could also prevent about $39 million in spending on formal long-term care (LTC) services, Klug and her colleagues conclude in an article published behind a paywall on the Health Affairs website.

Health Affairs, a peer-reviewed academic journal that focuses on health care delivery and finance systems, has included several articles on Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia and LTC services in the latest edition.

The Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota-North Dakota has been running a dementia care support program in North Dakota since January 2010.

Klug and her colleagues all work with the program.

The program provides telephone support for any paid or unpaid caregivers who want help, and it also offers access to in-person support groups. The people the caregivers are helping do not have to have any specific formal diagnosis.

The researchers came up with the acute medical care cost impact estimate by looking at how much formal care the people with dementia used before the caregivers began calling the support program and how much they used after the caregivers began calling.

When caregivers received telephone support, they were much less likely to call an ambulance or take people with the dementia to the emergency room, and the people with dementia were much less likely to end up staying in the hospital, the researchers report.

The researchers came up with the LTC savings estimate by asking unpaid caregivers who participated in a survey how much more or less likely they were to use paid LTC services after using the support program.

The researchers did not have any data on actual changes in formal LTC service use, and they didn’t have any figures on how changes in reported acute medical care use correlated with health care outcomes.

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