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Counseling Alzheimer's caregivers postpones the nursing home

and friends, alleviating depression among caregivers and helping them understand and tolerate the memory and behavioral problems that accompany Alzheimer's.

"Spouse caregivers are often very isolated," says Dr. Mittelman. "Managing the care of a relative with dementia is very lonely, time consuming and difficult. Nevertheless, most of these caregivers would prefer to keep their spouses at home with them as long as possible."

In the late 1980s, Dr Mittelman began a randomized control trial to find out whether counseling and support could lengthen the time that caregivers are able to keep their spouses with Alzheimer's disease at home with them, while simultaneously improving the well-being of these caregivers. The study, which began in 1987 with funding by the National Institutes of Health, and is still ongoing, is based on a group of 406 people caring for a spouse with dementia. The study took place at the Aging and Dementia Research Center of the NYU Silberstein Institute.

Half of the caregivers were assigned at random to the special counseling program, which consisted of two individual and four family counseling sessions that were tailored to a caregivers' specific situation, and occurred in the first months after enrollment. These caregivers also were encouraged to participate in long-term weekly support groups, and they and their family members could contact a counselor for telephone counseling any time for support, information, or advice. The counseling sessions could help caregivers manage troublesome behaviors, for example, or promote better communication between concerned family members.

The remaining caregivers were assigned to usual care, which meant that they received resource information and help upon request, but didn't participate in formal counseling sessions, and their family members did not have any contact with counselors.

Using sophisticated statistical analyses, Dr.
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Contact: Jennifer Choi
jennifer.choi@nyumc.org
212-404-3555
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
13-Nov-2006


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