ASU researcher earns prestigious caregiving award

David Coon, PhD receives the Rosalynn Carter Leadership Award

November is National Caregivers Month, a time to acknowledge the important role family and friends play in caring for their ailing and elderly family members.

Aptly timed, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving recently named David W. Coon, associate vice provost and professor in the College of Nursing & Health Innovation at Arizona State University, and his fellow experts the recipients of the 2013 Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award. This is the highest award given in the caregiving field. The award recognized research advancements by the CarePRO Partnership, a group-based skill-building intervention for family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter presented the award to Coon and his associates at a recent gala.

“We are honored to be recognized by the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving on behalf of CarePRO, its participants and all the family caregivers who give so much to care for their loved ones,” Coon said.  

Program supports ‘hidden patients’

“Caregivers are often hidden patients, constantly attending to their loved one’s needs without attending to their own,” Coon said. “CarePRO aims to enhance the quality of life for both caregivers and their care recipients by teaching caregivers stress management and behavior management skills.”

Coon says more than 800 caregivers have participated in CarePRO across Arizona and Nevada with project findings showing significant reductions in participant depressive symptoms; decreases in distress associated with care recipient memory and behavior problems; as well as increases in their use of positive coping strategies, among other positive health-related outcomes.

Findings also showed over 95 percent of CarePRO participants said they benefitted from the program with increased understanding of memory loss and its effects on people, gained greater confidence in dealing with their loved one's problems and developed an enhanced ability to provide care.

“The sheer number of caregivers that have received support through this CarePRO partnership is just amazing,” Laura Baurer, director of national initiatives for the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, said. “Each partner has helped lay the groundwork to ensure the program will continue so that even more caregivers can receive this vital assistance.”

Arming professionals with tools to provide compassionate care

“CarePRO has become an important tool with which we can continue to provide the best care and support for our caregivers,” Jacob Harmon, regional director for the Alzheimer’s Association Chapter in Northern Nevada, said.  “Dr. Coon’s expertise and empathy has not only helped countless caregivers provide more comprehensive and compassionate care to their loved ones living with dementia, but also helped our staff become even more thoughtful care partners themselves.”

“CarePRO has been a tremendous gift, certainly for the caregiver participants, but also for the chapter itself,” Deborah Schaus, executive director of the Desert Southwest Chapter, said. “It is inspiring for staff to be out in the community, say at a conference, and have a former participant stand up and start talking publicly about how CarePRO changed his life.”

About the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving and CarePRO

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving is an advocacy, education, research and service organization. The Leadership in Caregiving Award recognizes leadership in implementing innovative partnerships between community agencies and caregiving researchers that bridge the gap between science and practice. Johnson & Johnson sponsored the award with a $20,000 stipend and a statuette designed by renowned sculptor Frank Eliscu, designer of the Heisman Trophy.  

The CarePRO Partnership includes Coon, the Desert Southwest and Northern Nevada chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Division of Aging & Adult Services, several Area Agencies on Aging in Arizona, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, and the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division. CarePRO, which stands for Care Partners Reaching Out, is part of a nationwide effort to provide evidence-based skills to caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Coon, who is one of the nation’s leading experts on caregiver interventions, designed the program based on research he conducted with colleagues while he was at Stanford University.  

Family caregivers interested in CarePRO should contact the Desert Southwest Chapter at (602) 528-0545 or the Northern Nevada Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association at (775) 786-8061 for ongoing CarePRO groups.