There is much research evidence for new practices of dementia care, specifically, innovative psychosocial treatments that manage cognitive and emotional symptoms often accompanying dementia. These treatments have been developed for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and evidence-based programs have shown that they may assist the well-being of caregivers.
There is a significant gap, however, between current research knowledge and practice, as this evidence often fails to reach families and health care agencies. This gap is a lost opportunity to improve the lives of those with dementia and of their caregivers and families. To address this gap, the Administration on Aging funded an initiative to bring researchers into specific communities to help them develop new programs for caregiving.
A forthcoming article in The Gerontologist details two programs that provide evidence-based training to communities—the Reducing (RDAD) program in Ohio, and the STAR-Community Consultants (STAR-C) program in Oregon. Both programs are collaborative efforts of state departments of aging and health and the federal Administration on Aging; Alzheimer’s Association; and local agencies and families.
The programs were specifically designed to ease translation from research to community settings, bringing together academic researchers and community service providers. Each have an iterative design, changed over time through experience. In each case, a standard manual was developed to facilitate program consistency, and clinically relevant outcome measures were used. Standardization has made efficacy research possible, an aspect needed to demonstrate the value and sustainability of these programs.
The STAR-C program currently offers social support and straining focused on teaching caregivers to improve the emotional quality-of-life of those with Alzheimer’s, and use behavioral problem-solving skills. RDAD also includes these psychosocial support elements, but additionally involves physical exercise to improve strength and balance. This training is provided in home, through the collaboration of local clinicians and case managers.
These programs are both ongoing, and are being assessed for their effectiveness and sustainability. By serving individuals with dementia and their families and providing necessary evidence for research, these programs are a model for future translational research.