Dementia Patients, Caregivers May Benefit From Home-Based Program

TUESDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- A home-based program designed to improve life for dementia patients and their caregivers offers some benefits, finds a new study.

The program -- called Care of Persons with Dementia in Their Environments (COPE) -- seeks to improve dementia patients' ability to perform day-to-day tasks and thus reduce some of the burden on their caregivers. The program was designed by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

The researchers randomly assigned dementia patient/caregiver pairs to the COPE program or to a control group. The COPE program included up to 12 home or telephone contacts over four months by health professionals who assessed patient capabilities and deficits, obtained blood and urine samples, and trained families in home safety, task simplification and stress reduction.

Caregivers in the control group received three telephone calls and educational materials during the study period.

The findings are published in the Sept. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers analyzed results collected from 209 pairs at four months and 173 pairs at nine months. After four months, the dementia patients in the COPE program showed significant improvements in functional ability compared to those in the control group. Caregivers in the COPE program reported improvements in well-being and a few other areas, compared to those in the control group.

But after nine months, there were no statistically significant differences between the COPE group and the control group for any outcome measures.

"However, COPE compared with control caregivers reported a 'great deal' of improvement in their lives overall, disease understanding, confidence managing behaviors, made life easier, ability to care for patients, patients' quality of life, and ability to keep patients home," wrote Laura N. Gitlin and colleagues in a news release from the publisher.

"Because most patients live at home with functional decline, a nonpharmacologic, biopsychosocial-environmental intervention may positively contribute to disease management. Future research needs to examine the effects of underlying medical conditions, ways to boost treatment effects, cost effectiveness, COPE in combination with pharmacologic treatments, and translational potential," they concluded.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Aug. 31, 2010