Good news on the memory care front – when it comes to Alzheimer’s and related dementias, quality of care can improve quality of life for patients and family caregivers alike according to a new study published this summer.
Dementia is a syndrome affecting memory, thinking, and language which is caused most commonly by Alzheimer’s disease as well as other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body disease, and vascular disorders.
Researchers at UCLA found that a uniquely comprehensive care program run by the UCLA Health system, the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, reduced depression and behavioral problems in patients and lowered distress in caregivers, typically family members. The study evaluated data from 543 patients and 447 caregivers after a year of participation in the program, between 2012-14. The program did not, however, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
The study examined cognition, functional ability and depression symptoms in patients and the emotional state of caregivers as well as the physical, financial, psychological and social impacts caregivers experienced. Researchers found that symptoms improved, or that minor symptoms were maintained, in 58 percent of patients and 63 percent of caregivers.
The UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program is a long-term coordinated approach to dementia care managed by geriatric nurse practitioner Dementia Care Specialists supervised by the program’s medical director. The program focuses not just on medical needs but on the complex psychosocial and behavioral issues that Alzheimer’s and other dementias present, providing support to patients and families for the duration of the illness and offering flexible access to services beyond the medical office. Entry into the program begins with a 90-minute in-person interview with a nurse practitioner who then devises a personal care plan for each patient and their family which is implemented in collaboration with the patient’s referring physician.
“Although the program was implemented at only one site, the principles of the program and model of care can be adopted and adapted to fit other health systems,” lead author David Reuben, chief of the Division of Geriatrics at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, said.