Judy Wyatt has always had a special bond with her mother, Stella. “My mother and I were born on the same day,” Wyatt recalled. “I was her birthday present.”
It is a connection that has remained strong over the years, despite the onset of dementia. Like the 15 million other American families affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia, Wyatt has witnessed the heart-wrenching progression of her mother’s disease over the last 10 years.
“I love her dearly, and she needs me,” said Wyatt. “She’s at a point in her life where she’s very confused, but we still have a relationship. We laugh together; we sing together; we have a lot of good days. I see her every day, and I feel very blessed that I can be there for her.”
As a tribute to her mother, Wyatt has funded a geriatric study of the Patient-Centered Medical Home for People Living with Dementia. Wyatt’s gift honors both her mother and her alma mater—Wright State.
“It’s probably the most important gift that I have given,” said Wyatt. “It’s so personal, and it will touch my life as well as others who are in similar situations.”
Larry Lawhorne, M.D., chair of the Department of Geriatrics at Wright State University’s Boonshoft School of Medicine, is spearheading the study.
The pilot program will provide 30 households with easy access to both electronic health records and an interdisciplinary team for medical care.
“What we’re hoping is that this model will help people stay at home longer, safer, and also help the caregiver with caregiver stress,” said Lawhorne.
Along with delivering quality health care to people living with dementia, Lawhorne plans to determine the costs of providing that care.
Lawhorne hopes the patient centered home model will decrease trips to the emergency room and lower the number of falls and hospitalizations.
“Ultimately,” said Lawhorne, “we’d like to see the person maintain their personhood as long as they can.”
“I know that Dr. Lawhorne’s work is going to change lives,” said Wyatt. “I believe that he is doing something incredibly important and very difficult at the same time.”