Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging Program Helps Aging Veterans and Their Caregivers

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New study shows positive effects of telephone-based coaching program on caregiver strain.

Caregiving for a loved one can feel like a second job. Coordinating all the different types of help provided by professional and other family members can be difficult and frustrating. Caregivers can feel overwhelmed, especially if they are also dealing with the demands of work, family, and other areas of their lives.

According to research from the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging (BRIA), published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgs.12362/abstract), a low-cost, telephone-based coaching program can go a long way toward relieving the strains of caregiving.

Partners in Dementia Care, a coaching model driven by consumer choice, was developed by BRIA with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Alzheimer’s Association chapters in Alabama, Texas, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma. The intervention is an adaptation of BRI Care Consultation, an evidence-based program developed for individuals with chronic conditions and their caregivers.

Individuals who participated in the study provided care for veterans aged 50 years and older, with at least one dementia diagnosis.

After six months of participating in the program, caregivers showed a 45.7% decrease in unmet needs. They also saw a 25% decrease in “role captivity,” that is the feeling of being trapped by the caregiver role. Depression scores increased for both intervention and comparison groups after six months, though the increase for intervention group caregivers was significantly less (6.8% compared to 28.2%).

Caregivers who participated in Partners in Dementia Care were more likely to use support services, showing a 61.3% increase after six month. They also increased their number of informal helpers by 35%.

“The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming,” noted the study’s principal investigator David Bass, PhD, Vice President of Research at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. “The positive experiences of caregivers in our study illustrate the value of guidance, coaching, and information about how to deal with challenges of caregiving. You don’t have to do it alone.”

Partners in Dementia Care is a low-cost service delivered by telephone, mail, and email. There are three main components: an initial assessment, development of an action plan, and on-going monitoring and reassessment.

Care coordinators work with veterans and their caregivers to help find solutions to concerns that are a priority to both. Many of the action steps personalized for veterans in the program related to coordination of VA services and benefits or services from other agencies.

Previous research by Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging showed positive outcomes for older adults in the BRI Care Consultation intervention on which Partners in Dementia Care is based. The program was shown to decrease unnecessary visits to the emergency room or hospital. Caregivers and individuals with chronic conditions felt less depressed, anxious and isolated. They also felt better equipped to get the services they wanted. The program coaches caregivers on how to best communicate with doctors and other professionals, which increased their satisfaction with health care providers.

More information on the Partners in Dementia Care project is available at http://www.innovations.ahrq.gov/content.aspx?id=3345.

The Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging (http://www.benrose.org) is a national leader pursuing innovation in practice and policy to address the important issues of aging. As a champion for older adults, Benjamin Rose works to advance their health, independence and dignity. The organization has established itself as a trusted resource for people who counsel, care for and advocate on behalf of older adults. In Spring 2013, the Institute opened a state-of-the-art education and training center to prepare executives, managers and practitioners to provide care and support that is responsive to the evolving demands of an aging population.

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Jeanne Hoban
@BenRose1908
since: 06/2011
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