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IU Researchers Look To Support Caregivers Of Dementia Patients

Photo of the Regenstrief Institute

A new study turns the tables and instead of focusing on the well-being of patients, looks at the well-being of the people who care for them.

The study focuses specifically on the well-being of family members who care for patients with dementia.

The study is one of two research efforts supported by nearly $3 million in total funding from the National Institute on Aging.

Dr. Nicole Fowler is a professor and a scientist at the IU Center for Aging Research and Regenstrief Institute. She says it’s important to address the stressful challenges faced by family caregivers who can often feel unsupported and unprepared.

“We know from our work and the work of others that, that can be particularly stressful for caregivers you know they want to make sure that they are doing the best for their loved one," she says, "And so, we have designed tools to help support caregivers with regard to medical decision making.”

The study, called DECAD, supports caregivers of women with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by providing a decision aid to help educate them when facing decisions about mammograms.

Dr. Fowler says the study’s findings will help researchers understand if mammograms and similar tests are a significantly greater burden for older women with dementia than those who are not cognitively impaired.

In turn, the study aims to promote education and increase confidence in decision making for family caregivers in relation to important medical choices for their loved one.

The DECAD study will follow 426 caregivers over 24 months, half of which will receive a decision aid.

Dr. Fowler says the study can create an avenue for caregivers making other informed health decisions and provide support for both patients and their caregivers.

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