February marked a change in leadership for Siouxland Memory Center at Sioux Center Health.

After 12 years as director, Dr. Jerry Van Es retired. Physician assistant Morgan Meissner and Dr. David Janssen were named the new co-directors. Their team includes nurse Nancy Moss and social worker Ashley Anderson.

Meissner is not new to the team. She’s worked alongside Van Es in the specialty clinic for more than five years, but as Van Es started looking closer to retirement, she worked alongside other Sioux Center Health staff to develop a plan to ensure the service continued.

“Every week we hear from patients and families about how helpful we have been and that we are making a difference in their lives through our knowledge, ideas and compassion,” she said. “I have always had a special interest in the aging population. This is a service that is not offered everywhere. It is exciting to be a part of a clinic that provides such a needed service.”

The Siouxland Memory Center, a clinic of Sioux Center Health, aims to assist people who are specifically struggling with memory concerns.

“I was personally interested in becoming involved with Siouxland Memory Center because my grandmother died from Alzheimer’s disease,” Meissner said. “ It was incredibly difficult to watch a person you love and admire fade into someone else.”

Dr. David Janssen is excited to join the team, as he also has a special interest in this center.

“I watched my grandpa suffer from Alzheimer’s dementia for years and saw what that did to my grandmother and to other family members like my dad, aunts and uncles,” he said. “It was very difficult. Having a clinic like this could have helped them plan and be prepared for some of the tough decisions that came up, which they weren’t prepared for.”

Meissner said Siouxland Memory Center’s focus is to provide a comprehensive and compassionate diagnosis and treatment plan for each patient.

“We also strive to provide helpful education and support for patients, family and caretakers,” she said.

Janssen said the Siouxland Memory Center assesses patients who they themselves, their family or their primary care doctor have concerns about developing dementia.

Both medical professionals said many factors influence memory loss.

“The key to an accurate diagnosis is a thorough and complete diagnostic evaluation,” Meissner said.

The Siouxland Memory Center provides each patient with a comprehensive assessment including:

– In-depth medical history
– Cognitive examination
– Depression screening
– Functional and sensory exam
– Targeted physical and laboratory exam
– Psychological assessment
– Diagnostic imaging (if indicated)
– Patient and family education

“An accurate and early diagnosis is the first step in developing the most effective treatment and to begin a management plan,” Meissner said.

“My main initiative is to guide the patient through the course of this disease while supporting the family and making sure that their voices are heard and needs are met,” she continued. “I want to ensure that my patients with dementia are maintaining as much independence as possible, while remaining safe. Although we often identify things that people can no longer do, I feel that a really important part of my job is to also identify the things they can do really well. When we are dealing with a progressive disease like dementia, focusing on the positive points are really important.”

Siouxland Memory Center staff sees patients Wednesday mornings, generally seeing two patients per morning.

“What sets Siouxland Memory Center apart is the time and attention patients receive,” Meissner said. “During the initial evaluation, we spend approximately two hours with each patient. The team then evaluates the findings, makes a diagnosis (if indicated) and designs a personalized treatment plan. The patient will need to come back for an initial follow up after two weeks and additional follow-up visits at six month intervals. Patient will have the assurance of meeting with a team that knows their case and tracks their progress.”

The Siouxland Memory Center team is excited to continue the work Van Es did for many years.

“Not every health system has this sort of clinic,” Janssen said. “A family doctor can do such an assessment as well, which we do, and it’s nice to have a dedicated clinic like this locally that does this sort of in depth work on a regular basis to provide a specialty service close to home.”

Published by Sioux Center News