Aside from dealing with their memory loss and cognitive impairments, often the most difficult aspect of caring for people with dementia is treating their disruptive changes in behavior.
With no reliable medications to treat the patients and limited information for caregivers regarding alternative therapies, these behavior changes are frequently the source of increased stress on families and often result in nursing home placement.
Now, with the help of a $1.7 million grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research, experts from Johns Hopkins and the University of Michigan will work to address these difficulties by designing an easy-to-use Web-based tool that helps caregivers track, understand, and treat the behavioral symptoms of dementia.
Laura N. Gitlin, director of the Center for Innovative Care in Aging at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, and Helen C. Kales, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School and a researcher at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, will develop WeCare during the next three and a half years.
"WeCare has potential to improve caregiver skills and the care of individuals with dementia who currently do not receive optimal behavioral management," Gitlin says.
Kales says that the goal is "to make WeCare an easy-to-use resource for family caregivers that helps them better understand dementia and its contributing factors, and provides tailored strategies for in-home, nonpharmacologic behavior management."
The project, she says, is innovative in its involvement of key dementia stakeholders in the tool development process, use of state-of-the-science technology, and a tailored, algorithmic approach to detecting and monitoring behaviors and selecting nonpharmacologic solutions.
The co-investigators from Johns Hopkins are Constantine Lyketsos and Quincy Samus.