Informed caregivers can improve quality of life of Alzheimer's residents

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Jeff Beaty
Jeff Beaty

Why are people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, not being cared for the way they should be? We wanted to find a way to improve the quality of life ("QoL") of the resident with Alzheimer's living with a debilitating disease.

This idea formed the basis of a research study at Signature HealthCARE LLC that revealed a direct correlation between the quality of life for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a silent killer that gradually destroys a person's memory, ability to learn and communicate, and the ability to carry out daily activities. As AD progresses, individuals can experience other weakening side effects, including anxiety, irritation, and possible hallucinations. AD patients experience side effects that ultimately impact their quality of life, which is defined as being in a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.

The question that lingered throughout this research study was whether the implementation of a training model for caregivers positively impacts the quality of life of older adults who have been diagnosed with AD and reside in a nursing home. To test this question, a training model was designed to promote a positive change in the caregiver, while also increasing the knowledge of the caregiver and improving the clinical application of care to the resident with dementia.

The model was separated into three sections and was used over the course of two months:

1. A curriculum was designed specifically in educating caregivers about AD.

2. Caregivers were evaluated by assessment tools that measured their knowledge before and after the educational intervention; residents were measured by a survey questionnaire which was quantitatively measured by numerical descriptions.

3. Standard operating procedures were designed to implement and maintain changes that occurred as a result of the curriculum.

Once the research was completed and analyzed, the team determined that the quality of life for Alzheimer's residents had improved, and was directly related to the caregiver and resident relationship. This study also proved that the previously assumed notion that individuals with AD were not able to rate their own quality of life was incorrect. These individuals were able to rate their own quality of life well into the progression of the disease.

The resident's quality of life is about more than the resident participating in activities. Rather, it is about being in a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. This study emphasized that if the caregiver has specialized training for the care of Alzheimer's patients, then the overall quality of life for both the resident and the caregiver will increase. Additionally, the caregiver will be more knowledgeable about the clinical care for AD patients. Having caregivers who are both engaged and educated will provide individuals with better Alzheimer's care, and thus a better life.

Serenity HealthCARE, a program at Signature HealthCARE LLC, provides professional dementia care and behavioral health services to meet the needs of residents progressing through the Alzheimer's disease process. Our team will continue to educate and train caregivers to counteract the effect of declining skills and to improve the individual's quality of life. This research, in conjunction with current industry research, will help make better connections to residents who have Alzheimer's, resulting in a better quality of life for both them and the staff.

For more information about the research, contact authors Jeff Beaty, chief development officer for Signature HealthCARE, or Erica Staley, communications manager for Signature HealthCARE.

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