PULLMAN, Wash - Washington State University received a grant from the Alzheimer's Association of $320,000 for a study looking into mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
The goals are to identify ways to keep people functioning independently for longer, decrease caregiver burden and increase social support networks for both patients and family.
The study requires 40 patient-caregiver pairs. Half will be included in the intervention while the other half will serve as controls, receiving standard care from their personal physicians and getting tested at the same intervals as the intervention group.
Interventions would take place in Spokane and Pullman, and possible Lewiston.
Eligible individuals must be 50 years or older, be experiencing mild memory problems (to be verified through screening), be able to participate in psychometric testing and groups and have a spouse, family member or friend willing to participate. There is no cost to participate, and each pair will receive an honorarium.
The interventions will consist of 10 weeks of twice-weekly sessions in multi-family groups of five to seven pairs, led by two clinicians.
Sessions alternate teaching cognitive skills and memory strategies, such as the use of a memory notebook, and using problem-solving activities and socialization.
The group will meet monthly about nine times after the 10 weeks of "intense training," said Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe, the principal investigator if the study. She said there will be multiple rounds of interventions because each group can only have limited number of pairs participating at one time.
Schmitter-Edgecombe said the study will benefit both the patient and the caregiver.
Joel Loiacono, the executive director of the Alzheimer's Association Inland Northwest Chapter, said about 40 percent of caregivers pass away or become otherwise incapacitated from stress before the person they're taking care of dies, and many lack training to take care of and cope with the patient.
"We anticipate there will be things coming out of these studies to help the caregivers on a day to day basis," he said.
He said the group therapy in the study will serve the patient and the caregiver by relieving the stress of the patient.
"If the patient is aggravated or anxious about something, the caregiver takes the heat," he said.
Loiacono said Alzheimer's is much more than memory loss. It includes changes in judgement, mood, personality and issues with language, among other symptoms.
He said something is killing brain of the person, and their behavior is directly related to that destruction.
For instance, he said, a small bother to a healthy person can become a big deal to an Alzheimer's patient.
"If you don't have any impulse control, it turns into Mt St. Helens," Loiacono said.
The association's website, http://www.alz.org/inlandnorthwest, has a list of support groups, a schedule of monthly education events, information about trials similar to the one WSU is offering and other resources. The association has tracking systems for patients who wander and a 24-hour help line for caregivers -- 1-800-272-3900.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.