Erica Frechman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, section on Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine has been awarded $100,000 for the 2023 Lina Mae Edwards Young Investigator Award by Dementia Alliance of North Carolina (DA-NC). The DA-NC research program aims to tackle vital issues in dementia science and caregiver support, including understanding causes, prevention, and cures, as well as enhancing the lives of individuals with dementia and supporting their families.

This award was made possible through the partnership and support of Guardian Angel Thrift, founded in 1999 by Laura Gaddis in memory of her mother, Lina Mae Edwards. Guardian Angel Thrift, with two locations in Central North Carolina, has contributed over $3 million to dementia research in our state.

Dr. Frechman’s research study titled, Physical Frailty and Mild Cognitive Impairment: Understanding the unmet Palliative Care needs of patients and caregivers at the health system nexus of the aging body and mind during SNF rehabilitation and beyond” seeks to identify holistic care needs, including palliative care, for older adults living with physical frailty and mild cognitive impairment during care transitions. Often, older adults are hospitalized and discharged to skilled nursing facilities for rehabilitation. These transitions across healthcare settings may be challenging for persons living with physical frailty and mild cognitive impairment due to their medical conditions, leaving their caregivers with uncertainties in next steps of care including the illness course, caregiving needs, prognosis, and involvement of palliative care. This study will examine the experiences of older adults with physical frailty and mild cognitive impairment and their caregivers, and explore ways to improve their experiences and promote patient-and-caregiver centered care.

“I am honored to receive this early stage career development grant support from the Dementia Alliance of North Carolina. The research involved in this grant assessing the unmet palliative care needs of persons affected by mild cognitive impairment and physical frailty and their caregivers across transitions of care, will highlight the holistic care needs of this population. By elevating the voices of persons living with cognitive impairment and their caregivers, I hope to impact the well-being and quality of life for many people affected by the dementia course,” says Dr. Frechman.

“Understanding these experiences will not only enhance the quality of life for these individuals but also provide invaluable insights to improve care strategies and support systems for patients and their caregivers. This study is a crucial step towards ensuring that those navigating the transition to skilled nursing care receive the compassionate, tailored support they deserve at every stage of their journey” says Heather Hooper, Executive Director of Dementia Alliance of North Carolina.

About Dr. Frechman:

Dr. Erica Frechman completed her undergraduate degree from University of California Berkeley in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on aging and public health, her master’s degree in Nursing from Columbia University in New York City, and most recently her PhD in Nursing Science and Health Service Research from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She has worked clinically as a Nurse Practitioner for the past 15 years caring for older adults across the healthcare continuum from outpatient to inpatient to long-term care settings. Her research interests in dementia and caregiving stem from her clinical experiences working in Palliative Care, and her personal experience in navigating the healthcare system for her grandparents with dementia.

About Dementia Alliance of North Carolina

Dementia Alliance of North Carolina is committed to improving the lives of North Carolinians impacted by dementia as well as their caregivers through research, education, and support. For more than 40 years, our staff has provided personal, individualized support to thousands of families across NC through an intentional model of support; one caregiver, one individual and one interaction at a time. Our programs offer CARE – Comfort, Assistance, Resources and Education to individuals and families navigating dementia.