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Psychology in the News

Gordon, Rose Receive NSF Grant on Alzheimer Patient-Caregiver Relationships

Kristi Gordon, professor in the Department of Psychology, and Karen Rose, professor in the UT College of Nursing, along with their colleagues at the University of Virginia received a four-year, $1.2 million NSF grant ($464,000 at UT) titled “Collaborative Research: Learning and improving Alzheimer’s Patient-Caregiver Relationships via Smart Healthcare Technology.”

A short description of the project:

More than 80 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia (ADRD) are cared for in their home environments by family members. In 2015, an estimated 15.9 million family and friends supported someone with ADRD by providing 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care at an estimated economic value of over $221 billion. Family caregivers report increased anxiety, depressive symptoms, and many forego their own physical and psychological health needs as the demands of being a family caregiver are sustained over many years. Throughout the caregiving experience, many families struggle to maintain healthy relationships with each other, as the demands of caregiving for a person with a progressive neurodegenerative disease such as ADRD escalate. As ADRD progresses and the need for additional personal and healthcare needs ensue in order to keep their loved one safe in their home environment, family members oftentimes seek to employ home-based services, if this scant resource is available and if they have the financial means to pay for it. For many families, however, seeking institutionalization of their loved one with ADRD is their only option as their out of pocket costs soar and they enroll their loved one in Medicaid in order to pay for the costs of care. By delaying institutionalization, a savings of $2,029/month per person could be realized in direct healthcare costs.

Recently, in-home monitoring systems have been developed to facilitate in-home dementia patient care. It alleviates the heavy dependence on experienced personnel for in-home care and enables real-time monitoring with low cost. This project develops a monitoring, modeling, and interactive recommendation solution for caregivers for in-home dementia patient care that focuses on caregiver-patient relationships. This includes monitoring for mood and stress and analyzing the significance of monitoring those attributes to dementia patient care and subsequent behavior dynamics between the patient and caregiver. In addition, novel and adaptive behavioral suggestions at the right moments aims at helping improve familial interactions related to caregiving, which over time should ameliorate the stressful effects of the patient’s illness and reduce strain on caregivers.

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