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Dr. Karen Blank: How To Find The Right Care After A Dementia Diagnosis

May 31, 2017

Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s. More than 5 million Americans currently have the disease — and that number could rise to 16 million by 2050. With diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and dementia on the rise, coordination between providers and community organizations is critical to support patients and their caregivers.

Dr. Karen Blank, medical director of the Memory Disorders Center at the Institute of Living, understands this dynamic and works to connect people living with Alzheimer’s to the care and resources they need.

“We’re persuaded by patient and family feedback that patients who get specialized attention and care have better quality of life,” she said. “That’s a big part of our purpose, and it enables people to stay in their communities and with their families as long as possible.”

Dr. Blank has been awarded the Physician’s Leadership Award from the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter for going above and beyond in patient care and diagnosis of people with dementia. The award recognizes Dr. Blank’s work referring patients and their families directly to the organization for continued support throughout their journey with the disease.

“We are pleased to announce Dr. Blank as the 2017 Physician Leader of the Year,” said Carolyn Alessi, vice president of development and corporate relations at the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter. “This award recognizes her work in diagnosing patients with dementia and referring them and their families to the Association for caregiver education, support and our 24/7 helpline as they navigate this challenging journey.”

The work of Dr. Blank and the Memory Disorders Center aligns with the Alzheimer’s Association’s efforts to increase nationwide referrals from professional health care providers to the Association for care and support services.

“Dr. Blank stands above her peers as a medical professional who understands the importance in providing not only clinical care to persons diagnosed with dementia but also ensuring an added layer of support is provided to the family caregiver and person with dementia,” Alessi said. “Her team runs a support group for persons with dementia using the Association’s national best practices and strategies for managing the disease. Many families tell us they only wish they had known about us from the beginning. Dr. Blank has instituted these referrals as standard practice and we hope more physicians follow her lead.”

The award will be presented to Dr. Blank at the annual Brain Ball on June 10. The Brain Ball is held each year in June to commemorate Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Through the Brain Ball, the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter aims to bring together influential and respected political, business and social leaders to champion the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

“We have worked closely with community partners over the years, and the foremost partner has been the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter,” Dr. Blank said. “We have a deep and well-developed relationship with the association and they have helped us tremendously to identify support and resources.”

Dr. Blank founded the Memory Disorders Center in 2005 with two goals in mind: improve the accurate diagnosis of cognitive decline and dementia, and provide excellent care for patients and their families. The Center features a clinical service, teaching service and endowed research service through the Braceland Center for Mental Health and Aging.

“I wanted to develop a service that would bring modern diagnosis and care to patients with early cognitive decline and dementia,” Dr. Blank said of the Center’s beginnings. “Also, I knew that treatment could improve quality of life for the patients and their families and hoped to make that available in our area.”

The Center features a strong working partnership with the Yale Alzheimer’s disease research center. “Many of our patients are referred to Yale so they can be involved in clinical trials while they stay with us for their clinical care,” Blank said. “That enables people in the greater Hartford region to have expedited access to clinical trials where they have the opportunity to be involved in research that contributes to new advances in dementia care.”

The Memory Disorders Center is currently working on two major projects. Researchers are analyzing and publishing findings from the Center’s recent PREVENT study, which looked at middle-aged sons and daughters of patients with dementia who themselves have health factors that are known to increase risk of developing dementia in the future. The IDEAS study, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association and the American College of Radiology, is collecting imaging dementia evidence for amyloid scanning.

Learn more about the Memory Disorders Center here and visit the Alzheimer’s Association Connecticut Chapter here