Aside from memory loss and cognitive impairments, often the most difficult aspect of caring for people with dementia is treating their disruptive changes in behavior.
With no reliable medications to treat them and limited information for caregivers regarding alternative therapies, these behavior changes are frequently the source of increased upset, stress and burden to families and often result in nursing home placement.
Now, with the help of a $1.7-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Nursing Research), researchers from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University will work to address these difficulties by designing an easy-to-use, web-based tool that helps caregivers track, understand and treat the behavioral symptoms of dementia.
Helen C. Kales, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the U-M Medical School and researcher at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and her collaborator Laura N. Gitlin, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Innovative Care in Aging at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, will develop WeCare during the next three and half years, as part of a study called “An Innovative Caregiver Tool to Assess and Manage Behavioral Symptoms of Dementia.”
“The goal is to make WeCare an easy-to-use resource for family caregivers that helps them better understand dementia and its contributing factors, and provides tailored strategies for in-home, non-pharmacologic behavior management,” Kales says.
“WeCare has potential to improve caregiver skills and the care of individuals with dementia who currently do not receive optimal behavioral management,” Gitlin adds.
Kales says the project is innovative in its involvement of key dementia stakeholders in the tool development process, use of state-of-the science technology, and a tailored, algorithmic approach to detecting and monitoring behaviors and selecting non-pharmacologic solutions.
Co-investigators: From U-M: Lawrence An, Laura Struble, Daphne Watkins, Myra Kim; From JHU: Constantine Lyketsos, Quincy Samus
Link to original UMHS press release here.