Researchers at Utah State University (USU) have found that changing the environment of Alzheimer’s patients can dramatically slow down the progression of the disease. When caregivers use positive coping strategies, such as using words of encouragement, counting blessings, and seeking greater social support, the patient does better and so does the caregiver.
The study, entitled "Caregiver Coping Strategies Predict Cognitive and Functional Decline in Dementia: The Cache County Dementia Progression Study," was published in the January 2013 issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
In an article posted on Huffington Post (1/9/13) Dr. JoAnn Tschanz, professor at USU and the study's lead author said, "Except for psychiatric symptoms, few studies have examined how caregiver characteristics affect the rate of dementia progression, and our findings indicate significant associations between caregiver coping strategies and the rate of cognitive and functional decline in dementia.
Problem-focused coping may be mutually beneficial for both patients and caregivers,” says Dr. JoAnn Tschanz. “Such strategies may help caregivers cope with the stress of dementia caregiving while curbing the progression of dementia in their patients,” she says.
Coping strategies that work
Virginia Bell and David Troxel are authors of A Dignified Life: “The Best Friends’ Approach to Alzheimer’s Care, which shows you how to bring dignity to the lives of the Alzheimer’s patient and the caregiver.
The Best Friends Approach encourages:
- Communication—both verbal and non-verbal
- Fun and Laughter
This book is a great resource for learning how to use positive coping strategies indicated in the USU study.
Ways to improve the physical environment of an Alzheimer’s patient
• Beautify the patient’s room with flowers, photographs and pictures
• Serve delicious, nutritious and colorful foods
• Play upbeat or relaxing music
• Use aromatherapy to produce a calming effect
• Use natural light and light colors as much as possible. Dark colors can contribute to depression.
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