Early Alzheimer's Intervention: A Holistic Approach to Care

Wednesday, 1 August 2012: 1:30 PM

Nancy Blume, PhD, RN, BC, ARNP-CNS
Graduate Nursing Studies, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX

Learning Objective 1: Determine how early intervention in Alzheimer's Disease may help maintain cognitive functioning.

Learning Objective 2: Support the Alzheimer's dyad of care giver and care rescipient using teleconferencing as a strategy.

Purpose: Early Alzheimer's disease intervention reveals that maintaining cognitive function can be supported and maintained for longer periods when a holistic approach of mind-body–spirit centered care for both care recipients and care partners is implemented. The purpose of the current study was to determine if a baseline cognitive functioning level can be maintained over time using a holistic intervention approach.

Methods: Instruments used to measure functioning in the care recipient and care partner dyads were (1) Beck Depression Inventory, (2) Department of Veterans Affairs, St. Louis University Mental Status Inventory, (3) Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly, (4) Caregiver Support and Satisfaction Inventory and (5) a qualitative questionnaire of open ended responses about the caregiver’s perceptions of care. Seven early Alzheimer's diagnosed persons and their caregivers were participants in a series of six intervention strategies over a three month period. Cognitive functioning was assessed for the persons with Alzheimer's at the beginning and ending of the series to determine if functioning was maintained. The series of interventions was repeated after a 3 month time in a time-series design. Caregivers were trained in communication methods similar to validation therapy and relaxation methods while their early diagnosed family member or friend worked at a cognitive/memory strategy. The care partner dyads interacted using the strategies taught and the level of functioning apparent. The innovative strategy of teleconferencing was introduced as one intervention method.

 Results:  Cognitive or thinking ability was maintained over the first three month period, diminished the second three months and rose again with the next set of interventions for the early Alzheimer’s diagnosed persons. The caregiver partner maintained with fewer depressive symptoms reported, assessed their care as positive and strengthened informal resource use such as spiritual connections.

Conclusion: Early Alzheimer's intervention may have the potential to maintatin cognitive functionining and sustain caregiving.