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Caregiver outcomes of a dementia care program.

Abstract

The University of California, Los Angeles Alzheimer's and Dementia Care (ADC) program enrolls persons living with dementia (PLWD) and their family caregivers as dyads to work with nurse practitioner dementia care specialists to provide coordinated dementia care. At one year, despite disease progression, overall the PLWDs' behavioral and depressive symptoms improved. In addition, at one-year, overall caregiver depression, strain, and distress related to behavioral symptoms also improved. However, not all dyads enrolled in the ADC program showed improvement in these outcomes. We conducted a mixed qualitative-quantitative study to explore why some participants did not benefit and what could be changed in this and other similar dementia management programs to increase the percentage who benefit. Semi-structured interviews (N=12) or surveys (N=41) were completed with 53 caregivers by telephone, mail and online. Seven areas for potential program improvement were identified from the first 12 interviews. These included: recommendations that did not match caregivers' perceived care needs, barriers to accessing care and utilizing resources, differing care needs based on stage of dementia, needing services not offered by the ADC, needing more education or support, behavioral recommendations that the caregiver felt did not work, and poor rapport of the dementia expert with caregivers. Despite having been identified as having had no clinical benefit from participating in the program, most caregivers (85%) reported that the program was very beneficial or extremely beneficial. Respondents identified the close, longitudinal relationship and access to a dementia care expert as particularly beneficial. This dichotomy highlights that perceived benefit for most of the interviewed caregivers was not captured with the formal instruments used by the program.

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