Monday, January 10, 2011

From AlzDigest....

Those giving care to Alzheimer’s patients taking medication can themselves benefit from counseling and other support services, according to a groundbreaking study of caregivers in three countries.

“These findings show that counseling and support of family members can be of significant benefit to Alzheimer’s caregivers even when the patients are receiving medications for the disease,” said Dr. Mary Mittelman. “ who are less depressed are better able to take care of their ill family members. Social support and counseling for family members of people with Alzheimer’s disease should be considered essential components of optimal comprehensive care.”

Mittelman is the director of the Psychosocial Research and Support Program at the New York University School of Medicine Silberstein Institute and is on the editorial advisory board for the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.

The research into this issue concerned 158 older men and women providing home care for a spouse suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Each Alzheimer’s patient in the study was taking donepezil, which also is known as Aricept, and is used to treat the diseases.

Scientists from institutions in three nations participated in the study, including: NYU Medical Center, the U.K.’s University of Manchester, and the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre at the University of New South Wales’s School of Psychiatry in Sydney, Australia. Under conditions of the study caregivers were split into two groups with one group receiving normal supportive care and education and the other getting enhanced counseling and support services that had been shown to be beneficial.

Those receiving the enhanced support program felt less isolated and depressed. The study could have far-reaching effects as almost 10 million people in the U.S. alone provide care for an Alzheimer’s disease patient. Estimates worldwide are that caregivers number 25 million.

The enhanced support developed at NYU covered:
  • Caregiver education about Alzheimer’s effects on the patient and strategies for managing care and responding to symptoms.
  • Continued support for the caregiver and family members including counseling and encouragement.
  • Working to reduce family conflicts
Resutls of the study were published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
“As we search for a cure or a way of preventing Alzheimer’s disease, we cannot forget about the millions of family members who are caring for relatives who are currently ill,” Mittelman said.

Image: University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

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