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Telephone-Based Care Program Benefits Dementia Patients and Their Carergivers

March 21, 2014

A telephone-based care-coordination program for patients with Alzheimers and their carergivers  can result in positive psychosocial function improvements in patients with dementia, according to a recent study published in the open access journal, Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy.   

The study led by Mark E. Kunik, M.D., M.P.H at the VA’s Health Services Research and Development Center in Houston, TX and Dr. David Bass, from the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, tested the effectiveness of a telephone-based care-coordination program – Partners in Dementia Care (PDC) – that integrated healthcare and community services through structured coaching and support. The findings show that non-pharmacological programs and interventions can play a role in improving care for people with dementia and their family caregivers.

Partners in Dementia Care (PDC) is a partnership between healthcare and community agencies that provides care coordination for medical and non-medical needs of both patients and caregivers. As part of the study, baseline interviews were conducted with 333 patients, 263 of whom completed six month follow-ups and 194 had 12-month follow-ups. Those on the care programmhad significantly fewer  adverse outcomes at six months than those receiving usual care, particularly for more impaired patients. This included: reduced relationship strain and depression, reduced unmet need, and less embarrassment about memory problems. At 12 months, more impaired veterans had further reductions in unmet need..

“This study shows that care delivered primarily by telephone and computer may be a valuable strategy for serving hard to reach rural populations and others who lack easy access to care,” Kunik said. “VA, along with health care providers across the county, is working to develop a comprehensive system of support services for patients with dementia and their informal caregivers. These findings represent an effective strategy for bridging and linking healthcare and community services.”