Caring for a family member with dementia can be extremely stressful, can contribute to psychiatric and physical illness and even increase risk for the caregiver's death. But two articles and an editorial in the Nov. 21, 2006, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine describe programs to improve the well-being of dementia patients and their caregivers.
1. SUPPORT PROGRAM FOR DEMENTIA CAREGIVERS IMPROVED THEIR LIVES
Researchers assigned 642 Hispanic, white and black caregivers to a group that received an intensive support or to a control group that received written educational materials (Article, p. 727).
After receiving help and counseling about how to manage stress, take care of their own health, improve social support network, and manage problem behaviors of their patients with dementia, the caregivers in the support group reported improved quality of life and had significantly less depression than those in the control group.
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2. COORDINATED SUPPORT FOR CAREGIVERS IMPROVED DEMENTIA CARE
Researchers assigned 408 pairs of people with dementia and their caregivers to one of two groups (Article, p. 713). In one group, case managers helped the caregivers get the needed services and care from various doctors and community agencies. In the other group, the caregivers and patients were responsible for coordinating their own doctor visits and social services.
Pairs in the coordinated system -- both caregivers and patients -- received more and higher-quality health and social services than those in the usual-care group. Sixty-four percent of patient care in the coordinated group met 23 dementia care guidelines vs. 33 percent in the usual-care group.
3. EDITORIAL: THESE STUDIES SHOW WHAT WORKS. WHAT DO WE DO NOW?