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Helping Alzheimer's patients stay independent
Date:7/18/2012

Family members or professional caregivers who do everything for older adults with Alzheimer's disease may just be wanting to help, but one University of Alberta researcher says that creating excess dependency may rob the patients of their independence and self-worth.

U of A psychologist Tiana Rust, who recently completed her doctoral program, says her research indicated that caregivers adopted a "dependency support script," assuming control of tasks they believed patients seemed no longer capable of doing for themselves. She says this model shows that the caregivers' beliefs, rather than the person's real abilities, drove their interactions with the patients. Her research also showed that the caregivers' actions were also seemingly incongruous with their values of wanting to treat patients with respect and promote their independence.

With an aging Canadian population, the number of people suffering from the disease is expected to increase over the next 20 years, she says. Thus, changing behaviour becomes criticaland she's hoping her U-of-A based research will help spark that change.

"When we create this excess dependency that doesn't need to be there, this is a problem," said Rust. "1.1 million Canadians are projected to have dementia by 2038. So, if we're able to maintain and promote independence to the degree permissible by the disease, that's important."

Help not necessarily wanted

Rust observed several caregivers and Alzheimer's patients in an experimental setting where they were asked to prepare a meal together. What she found was similar to behaviour patterns found in other studies with older adults: caregivers would assume responsibility for tasks that they believed patients were incapable of doing on their own. However, she noted that caregiver actions were not always based on their observations of the patient, but sometimes on their own beliefs.

"The caregivers who believed that people wit
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Contact: Jamie Hanlon
jamie.hanlon@ualberta.ca
780-492-9214
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert

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