Counseling Alzheimer's caregivers postpones the nursing home

NEW YORK, Nov. 13, 2006 -- A program of individual and family counseling sessions and ongoing support for people who are caring for a husband or wife with Alzheimer's disease has a major impact on how long they can keep their spouses at home with them. Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are a major reason why people are placed in nursing homes in the United States.

According to new findings from a long-term study led by an NYU School of Medicine researcher, a psychosocial support program delays by an average of 1.5 years the time when people with dementia are usually put in nursing homes. The study, the longest running of its kind, is published in the November 14, 2006, issue of the journal Neurology.

"Comprehensive medical treatment, particularly for the elderly, has got to include more than just using a prescription pad," says Mary S. Mittelman, Dr. P.H., the lead author of the study and Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry. "Counseling and support for family members, with no time limits, can benefit the family and the person with dementia," says Dr. Mittelman, "and this has been shown in a major way in our latest report."

The findings have financial as well as medical implications, says Dr. Mittelman, since the average annual cost of nursing home care in the United States was more than $65,000 a year, as reported by the MetLife survey in 2006. She estimates that a delay in placement of 1.5 years represents a savings of at least $100,000 per patient. Other researchers have estimated previously that only a one month delay in institutionalizing people with Alzheimer's could save as much as $1.12 billion annually in the United States.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, some 4.5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's disease. The meaning of support

The study found that the counseling program helped caregivers gain more support from family

Contact: Jennifer Choi
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine

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