Lamar County Health Department now a telehealth location for Alzheimer’s screenings
Those eligible will first need a referral from their primary care doctor
Picture this scenario: Concerned about your wife’s growing memory loss, the two of you talk with her primary care physician in Barnesville during her free annual wellness visit through Medicare. After giving her a 3-minute memory screening, her doctor then provides her a referral to a cognitive neurologist, who can give her an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
But when the doctor’s office calls to schedule her neurology visit—which is in Atlanta—you learn all appointments are fully booked for the next 6 months.
Now, picture this: After your wife’s doctor provides her a referral, his office calls to schedule a neurology appointment and learns she can be seen in two weeks. And, you don’t have to worry about driving to Atlanta; instead, her appointment will be just down the street at the Lamar County Health Department in Barnesville.
The Lamar County Health Department recently was selected as one of three health departments in Georgia to serve as telehealth appointment locations through Georgia Memory Net, a non-profit, statewide program developed to address the growing need for Georgians to have earlier access to diagnostic services closer to home. The Georgia Department of Human Services developed Georgia Memory Net in 2018 in partnership with the Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Emory University.
The Dooly County Health Department in Vienna and Emanuel County Health Department in Swainsboro also are telehealth locations, and more health departments will soon follow. Georgia Memory Net also has regional Memory Assessment Clinics (MACs) in Atlanta, Albany, Augusta, Columbus and Macon.
“What I love about working with Georgia Memory Net is that they continue to focus on how they can make it easier for Georgians to get a diagnosis quickly and closer to home,” Farr said. “They step into the shoes of patients and their loved ones and then work toward making their journey to a diagnosis and treatment a little bit easier.
“They are determined to help Georgians no matter where they live in the state, but they’re especially passionate about making it easier for those living in rural areas to get the help they need.”
Of the 385,000 Georgians self-reporting cognitive decline in a recent study, 80 percent said they hadn’t yet been evaluated or treated, in part due to the relatively small number of specialists available for the thousands of individuals needing services. Traditionally, Georgians in search of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis have had to travel to a metropolitan area, where the wait for an appointment could be as long as 18 months.
After receiving a primary care doctor’s referral, an individual can now come with a loved one to a telehealth appointment at the Lamar County Health Department, where a private, designated area is available for them to visit with a specialist through an online video call.
The health department’s clinical staff can help patients log in to their appointment and is available to support them throughout the visit. If the specialist decides any lab work is needed, it can be performed during the same visit at the health department.
“Patients also can meet with a Georgia Memory Net clinicians through telehealth in the comfort of their own homes, which is another wonderful option,” Farr said. “But I like to think that here at the health department, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re computer-savvy enough or how to fix the sound if it’s not working; we take care of all that. We can offer encouragement and support, and we’ll be close by to talk through it with you and to answer any questions or concerns.”
Just before the health department was ready to welcome its first Georgia Memory Net patient this summer, Farr had an “expert” come in to walk through how a typical Georgia Memory Net appointment would flow. Their run-through included testing the internet connection and sound with a video call to another health department staff member, who played the role of a Georgia Memory Net clinician.
Farr’s expert was none other than her father, retired banker Harry Park. Like his daughter and her colleagues, he is excited about Georgia Memory Net’s investment in the community they all love so much.
“We may not see the impact of this right away, but having this in Lamar County is going to begin making a huge difference in the lives of individuals, their spouses, their children, and even their grandchildren,” Park said. “Right now Barnesville is one of only three small towns in Georgia that offers this. We’re very fortunate that Georgia Memory Net has given our community this gift.”
For more information, visit district4health.org/memory. For additional information on Georgia Memory Net, including how to get a referral, visit gamemorynet.org.