Help Needed for Alzheimer's Caregivers
Patients, Caregivers Would Benefit, but Little Support Now, Studies Show
WebMD News Archive
Evaluating Intervention Strategies continued...
Meanwhile, caregivers in the comparison group received a packet of
educational materials about dementia, caregiving, community resources, and
safety. They also had two brief "check-in" telephone calls during the
At the end of the study, caregivers in the intervention group reported
better quality of life than those in the comparison group.
Race did not appear to be a factor in the response to intervention. But
husbands or wives taking care of a spouse seemed especially likely to benefit
from the intervention.
However, the number of patients sent to nursing homes was similar in both
The researchers speculated that longer intervention might be needed to see a
difference in this outcome.
The second study comes from researcher Barbara G. Vickrey, MD, MPH, in the
department of neurology at UCLA, and colleagues. It was funded by the
California Department of Aging, among others.
It looked at 408 home-based patients with dementia and their caregivers.
Just over half of the caregivers were assigned case managers to help them
get needed services within both the health care system and the community. The
other caregivers received no such help.
Not surprisingly, the patients whose caregivers had case managers ended up
receiving more and higher-quality health and social services than those whose
caregivers were left to manage with little help.
Scores on standardized tests measuring quality of life were also higher for
patients in the case manager group.
The Public's Role
Both studies suggest addressing the needs of caregivers is integral to
effective treatment of dementia patients, Covinsky and Johnston conclude.
"Caregivers routinely risk their financial, emotional, and physical
well-being to provide care to their relatives or members of their community
with dementia," they wrote. "It is time for the public to recognize
their part of this social contract."
That means providing psychological and social support services for
caregivers like the ones outlined in the two studies, Covinsky says, as well as
time off in the form of home nursing care and more elderly day care.
"Something basic like having someone come in to help bathe or dress a
patient can make a big difference," he says.