Amy Siple, associate professor of nursing, has been appointed by Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer to serve as a member of the Alzheimer’s disease Plan Working Group for the state.
“Alzheimer’s and related dementias are getting ready to hit our nation like a tsunami due to the aging of our population,” said Siple, associate professor of nursing and a nurse practitioner who is certified in geriatrics and very knowledgeable about Alzheimer’s disease.
The Alzheimer’s Plan Working Group is made up of officials from the Alzheimer’s Association, Department of Aging, Kansas Advocates for Better Care and other organizations as well as an Alzheimer’s patient and a patient’s family member.
The group will meet a total of eight times with the goal of creating policies and practices to recommend to the governor to better serve Kansas’ growing Alzheimer’s population. In between meetings, group members and various subcommittees will collaborate, make calls, create strategies and collect data to bring back to present to the group.
Most states have created an Alzheimer’s disease Plan Working Group to prepare for the extreme growth of Alzheimer’s and dementia cases.
Siple said, “There will not be enough nurses to provide care, there will not be enough money to render care and already our caregivers and staff are woefully uneducated on how to provide good interventions for different behaviors we see associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Siple has had a passion for Alzheimer’s since beginning her career as a nurse practitioner in 1999. She speaks around the state and nationwide on the topic and as such was nominated to bring a valuable clinical perspective to the group.
“For a long time God has given me a passion for this population and I feel like they are underserved and they are misunderstood and they’re certainly very vulnerable. God has given me a true love for clients with Alzheimer’s disease, and (the field of) geriatrics in general,” said Siple. “I want to be their advocate and I am 100 percent certain that we can improve their quality of life and quality of care if we take some intentional steps.”
Siple looks forward to contributing her ideas and representing Newman professionally in the group.
“Our mission (at Newman) is to transform society, and we are working on policies to help transform our state and the way that we are going to deal with this tsunami of Alzheimer’s and waves of dementia that are going to hit us.”
Siple is a part of three subcommittees: caregiver support, diagnosis and treatment, and education and training.
“I have a lot of ideas that are not always good,” said Siple, “but I’m really excited about the caregiver support committee … how we can provide more support to family, caregivers, and long-term staff.”
Caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is a difficult task but with stagnant resources and a growing population, educating caregivers on how to better care for their loved ones is key.
Siple said, “I would love to see us as a state, move toward equipping family members to care for clients in the home longer and I think that’s going to be multifaceted. I feel like we need to come to them.”
Siple conducts Alzheimer’s in-services at long-term care facilities in her spare time, but for patients who are still at home, it’s difficult for caregivers to leave the home to attend the informational sessions. Implementing a model in which someone could come directly to the home and help the caregiver problem solve and strategize would be beneficial to the level of support patients receive and keep the patient at home longer.
As part of the diagnosis and treatment subcommittee, Siple works with others to find ways in which the use of psychotropic drugs can be decreased, something she is very passionate about.
Siple said, “We could get nurses to become more accountable before they use psychotropic drugs. Maybe have them document what kind of non-pharmacologic interventions they’ve tried first before reaching for those drugs.”
The group is looking for innovative ways that the state can move forward in a cost-neutral manner to positively impact clients and caregivers.
“I feel like I’ve had a lot of these ideas for a long time,” Siple explained, “and I’ve been trying to implement them just on my own … and I’d love to work together with people who are passionate about this to come up with some real solutions that will help individuals.”