ROCHESTER, MN — With a rapidly expanding population of elders, the number of dementia caregivers in Florida is increasing exponentially. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 10 million caregivers provide unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s disease. Finding the best way to support caregivers, especially with fewer state resources available, is one focus of ongoing research at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
The study to date includes 75 adult African-American caregivers and involves researchers from Mayo Clinic in Florida and Florida State University (FSU), as well as Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, and James Madison University in Virginia.
The African-American Alzheimer’s Caregiver Training and Support (ACTS) project at Mayo Clinic involves a 12-week program that provides skills training and support to African-American dementia caregivers with depression, and is conducted either by phone or face to- face.
Led by Floyd Willis, M.D., chair of Mayo Clinic’s Department of Family Medicine, in conjunction with Robert Glueckauf, Ph.D., a professor of medical humanities and social sciences at Florida State University, ACTS helps caregivers find creative ways to improve difficult care giving problems and, at the same time, enhance their own emotional well-being and physical health. The primary purpose of this study is to compare the effects of telephone-based versus face-to-face cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), an evidence-based, skills-building support program. Early participants’ outcomes, says Willis, indicate that both modes of therapy are equally effective and have led to substantial reduction in caregivers’ depression and anxiety, as well as improvement in their physical health.
“The pilot study results already look promising,” Willis said, “but we really want to enlarge the number of participants so we can complete the study to validate our pilot data.” To complete their study, researchers are looking for an additional 40 to 45 African-American individuals. For their participation, caregivers will receive up to $100 and, judging from the early results, they also will benefit psychologically, physically and spiritually, says Willis.