Jessica Caldwell, PhD is the Director of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center and explains why women are flocking to see her and the WAMPC team.
WAM: On June 18th 2020, in the earlier days of the Covid pandemic when people were hunkering down in social isolation, the WAMPC announced on the Today Show that it was opening its doors, and by the end of the day, the phone system at Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, where the WAMPC is based, went down. The number of calls coming in was overwhelming. Were you surprised by that reaction?
Dr. Caldwell: Absolutely! I had hoped for a strong response from that Today Show announcement, but at the same time, we are an in-person clinic, and I expected the pandemic to keep the numbers modest. Instead, hundreds of women called hoping to get a space. I was amazed and grateful.
WAM: What were the stories they told about why they wanted to come?
Dr. Caldwell: Women told us they were so glad to have something to actually do about their risk. We heard from women with fears about Alzheimer’s running in the family, and from women who currently caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. The overwhelming response was along the lines of—”This is me. When can I get in? I’m ready.”
WAM: What are they signing on for when they get one of the coveted slots?
Dr. Caldwell: When a woman commits to our program, she is signing on for a big commitment. Some of that commitment is doing a lot of paperwork online and about 4 hours of initial in-person visits at our center, which includes cognitive testing. The more important commitment is to making lifestyle changes–for example in diet and exercise. That might sound simple, but it takes work and discipline to get done. We’re not a single challenge or a time-limited study–we’re asking women to make changes for life.
WAM: More women applied than we had bargained for when we first put together our financial projections, which has resulted in the fact that more women want to come to see you than the WAMPC can accommodate without further funding. How have you adjusted your criteria for admission about who is best served, and how have the eligibility criteria changed?
Dr. Caldwell: Due to the very large number of women who want to be a part of the WAMPC, we now require women to have a known risk for Alzheimer’s disease–whether that is a family history or genetic risk–and also to be 30-60 years old. Our goal in this change is to improve access for women who have risks for Alzheimer’s, and are at the best life stage to really engage in prevention (before brain changes likely have begun). At the same time, we see the incredible response from folks who have low risk and are over 60, and we know that those folks can also benefit from a brain healthy lifestyle. We hope to offer more services for everyone in the future.
WAM: What is your personal take-away after this year?
Dr. Caldwell: My personal take-away is that women all over the country are ready to commit to the prevention of Alzheimer’s. They already know they are at risk for a disease they do not want to develop, since many have been caregivers or had parents or grandparents with Alzheimer’s. They are so eager to have the tools that can give hope of reducing their risks. I have been humbled to see women make this commitment even during the pandemic, alongside other life stressors, and really without making any excuses. That has been so uplifting to see.
If you would like to learn more about Jessica Caldwell, PhD, click HERE.
Find out more about the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center HERE.