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Arnold School of Public Health

Research shows Office for the Study of Aging’s Dementia Dialogues® program works

February 4, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

After remodeling the curriculum for Dementia Dialogues® in 2019, researchers in the Office for the Study of Aging (OSA) conducted a comprehensive evaluation regarding the effectiveness of the nationally registered program. Pre/post surveys revealed significant increases in caregiver knowledge attainment, with differences in overall knowledge change in specific module among caregivers and non-caregivers of persons living with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. The study also found extremely high satisfaction rates (between 89 and 92 percent) among participants.

“There are 52.5 million people in the United States who are 65 and older, and that number is expected to rise considerably,” says Megan Byers, OSA program coordinator and lead author on the findings the team published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology. “With an estimated 5.8 million – projected to grow to 14 million by 2050 – of these individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, customized caregiving education is critical for ensuring that an adequate and competent workforce is available to support persons with these conditions and their families.”

Currently, there are approximately 318,000 caregivers for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in South Carolina – providing up to 362 million hours of unpaid care annually. Often family members, these caregivers play a critical role in the U.S. healthcare system. However, they rarely receive adequate training/support, compounding the challenges they face in providing quality care.

OSA, which is co-directed by health promotion education, and behavior faculty Daniela Friedman and Lee Pearson, first developed the Dementia Dialogues® program in 2001 to meet these unique training/support needs. Over the past two decades, they have trained more than 21,000 caregivers in at least one module, with 10,000 of these participants completing the entire course (i.e., five modules). This free program is offered by certified instructors nationwide and was recently launched an online format.

“Our core mission at the Office for the Study of Aging is to prepare communities to meet the needs of a growing older adult population and to enhance the quality of life for these individuals, as they age,” Byers says. “One of the ways we do this is by educating formal and informal caregivers. Dementia Dialogues® sets itself apart not only because it is offered free-of-charge and focused on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, but also because it takes place in a community setting and highlights the role of the family in the caregiving process while also acknowledging them as true caregivers.”

Without specialized training, which is typically not offered by healthcare providers, family caregivers may have difficulty recognizing and managing signs and symptoms associated with their loved one’s condition. These experiences can leave them feeling overwhelmed or ill-prepared. Dementia Dialogues® addresses these challenges through its accessible (i.e., free, online, nationwide) training while also providing education on how to attend to the self-care needs of caregivers. The training can improve caregiver satisfaction and social support, mitigate conflict within the family, and decrease caregiver strain and support while providing enhanced care to the loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

This work was supported by Contract No. A20210088A from the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.


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