Health & Fitness

New UM program focuses on building skills for Alzheimer’s caregivers, and supporting them

The University of Miami Health System has developed the Care Partners Program, a 12-month study funded by National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. The program helps caregivers learn skills that help improve patience and provide cognitive stimuli for patients.
The University of Miami Health System has developed the Care Partners Program, a 12-month study funded by National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. The program helps caregivers learn skills that help improve patience and provide cognitive stimuli for patients. TNS

Alzheimer’s-related memory loss and cognitive impairment can be extremely challenging for a patient and for family members.

At present, 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for someone with memory loss.

The desire to avoid institutionalization and to improve the quality of life of patients and caregivers has inspired the University of Miami Health System to develop the Care Partners Program, a 12-month study funded by National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. The program helps caregivers learn skills that help improve patience and adaptive capabilities. It also provides cognitively stimulating activities for patients.

Historically, physicians have focused concern on the person showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Less appreciated, however, are the challenges caring for them places on their caregiver.

The Care Partners Program explores ways to help caregivers meet the everyday struggles of having someone at home with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or other memory related conditions. Caregivers will learn strategies to reduce stress, enhance caregiving skills, and improve overall well-being. Loved ones with early Alzheimer’s disease will receive cognitive training and mentally stimulating exercises.

The goals of the study include reducing caregiver burden, lowering any symptoms of depression among patients and caregivers, and helping people delay the placement of a loved one in an institutional setting.

The study plans to enroll a diverse population of 240 patient/caregiver pairs in the research — 80 Caucasian, 80 Hispanic and 80 African American with early signs of memory loss. Hispanics are almost one and a half times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia compared to Caucasians; African-Americans are almost twice as likely.

Participants will gain access to web-based skill building sessions, videos from experts, and virtual support groups, as well as information and tips on caregiving-related topics. Participants receive a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop, which they are able to keep during and after the study.

All study-related activities take place at home, making participation much more convenient. Eligible candidates include those living with or in close proximity to loved ones with memory issues and who have provided care for at least eight hours a week, for the past six months or longer.

The research study is being conducted at the University of Miami Miller School Of Medicine, in collaboration with Weill Cornell Medical College.

The Miller School of Medicine is the only research site conducting the Care Partners Program in Florida, and Weill Cornell is the only research site in New York.

For information or to refer a patient and caregiver pair to the study, call 305-355-9200 or email coainfo@med.miami.edu.

Dr. David Loewenstein is a behavioral sciences expert and Director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and Aging at the University of Miami Health System and principal investigator of the Care Partners Program study.

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