Feb 14, 2013

The Progression of Alzheimer's Can Be Slowed

Can Alzheimer's caregivers slow the progression of dementia through their actions and words? The answer is a resounding - Yes.

Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Progression of Alzheimer's Can Be Slowed
The research summary presented below confirms what I already knew and lived. A caregiver can change the progression of Alzheimer's disease, and change the way a dementia patient thinks, feels, and acts.

I know this to be true because I started writing about our own experiences right here on the Alzheimer's Reading Room in 2009.

I introduced my mother, Dotty, to the worldwide Alzheimer's community in mid 2009. We have 91 podcasts and 21 videos of Dotty.  We enabled everyone to see her face and listen to her for 3 and a half years. They saw and heard the difference.

More than 1,000 readers have written to me and told me they took the giant step to the left and entered Alzheimer's World (AW).

AW is a kind and gentle place where confusion, anger, frustration, sadness, and a sometimes feeling of hopelessness turn into kindness, gentleness, understanding, and the ability to cope and communicate with a person who is becoming deeply forgetful.

There are over 4,000 articles here on the Alzheimer's Reading Room. You can search our Knowledge Base by using the search box on the right hand side of every page.

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Study Finds Alzheimer's Can Be Slowed By Environment
Study Reveals "Positive" Caregiver Coping Strategies Affect Rate of Dementia Progression

Utah State University (USU) announced the results of a study presenting strong evidence that caregivers can promote higher functioning among persons with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia by modifying the patient's environment.

It has been published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The Cache County Dementia Progression Study is the first published academic research to show evidence that environmental factors--such as aspects of the care environment--could slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. The study offers hope for those trying to mitigate the effects of Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, which affects one in eight older Americans. It is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death nationally that, to date, cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.

The study found that employing higher levels of "positive" coping strategies (e.g., problem-focused coping, seeking high levels of social support, counting blessings, etc.) slows patient decline as measured by the Mini-Mental State Exams. This exam is a global measure of cognitive ability that assesses orientation, attention, memory, language and visuospatial ability.
"This study is a groundbreaking event in the fight against dementia, including Alzheimer's, which has been so pervasively devastating for individuals and families, especially given the limited treatment options for patients and their families," said Dr. JoAnn Tschanz, Professor at USU and the study's lead author. "Except for psychiatric symptoms, few studies have examined how caregiver characteristics affect the rate of dementia progression, and our findings indicate significant associations between caregiver coping strategies and the rate of cognitive and functional decline in dementia."
Conducted in Cache County, Utah, by a team of USU researchers along with fellow researchers from Johns Hopkins University, the study assessed 226 persons with dementia and their caregivers semi-annually for up to six years.
"Greater use of problem-focused coping may be mutually beneficial for both patients and caregivers," said Dr. Tschanz. "Use of this coping strategy may translate into developing a care environment that is tailored to individual patient needs. Furthermore, other research suggests problem-focused coping has been associated with less emotional distress among caregivers. Such strategies may help caregivers cope with the stress of dementia caregiving while curbing the progression of dementia in their patients."
The study, entitled "Caregiver Coping Strategies Predict Cognitive and Functional Decline in Dementia: The Cache County Dementia Progression Study," was published in the January 2013 issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The study's research team from the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services included Drs. Joann and Brian Tschanz and Dr. Scott DeBerard of Psychology and Dr. Kathleen Piercy, Dr. Maria Norton and Dr. Elizabeth Fauth of the Family, Consumer and Human Development department.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging.
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