Individualized intervention for dementia caregivers cuts through racial, ethnic barriers to ease burdens

November 21, 2006

There may be light at the end of the tunnel for caregivers of dementia patients.

Results of a recent study in the November 21 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine point to a significant drop in depression rates among participating caregivers who received an individualized multi-component intervention designed to address the many ways caring for a relative with dementia can take its toll. Download Full Image

David W. Coon, an associate professor of psychology in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University’s West campus, is a co-author of the study.

Dementia, a progressive brain disorder, leads to a gradually increasing restriction of daily activities. The most well-known type of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. Dementia not only affects patients, but also those surrounding them, as most patients require care in the long-term.

“The study and the findings are important because finding better ways to support family caregivers is a major public health challenge facing this country,” said Coon, a member of the department of Social and Behavioral Sciences faculty at ASU.

“Providing care to a family member with dementia is extremely stressful, contributes to psychiatric and physical morbidity among family caregivers, and increases the risk of caregiver mortality.”

The study co-authored by Coon and coordinated at the University of Pittsburgh, is the first large, well-controlled caregiver study of its kind and was delivered to over 600 family caregivers from three diverse racial/ethnic caregiver groups – Hispanic/Latino, White/Caucasian, and Black/African-American. The study was designed to help reduce dementia patient problem behaviors, reduce caregiver depression and burden, and increase caregiver self-care and social support.

The results of the study are significant, noted Coon, who refers to caregivers as “the hidden patients,” because approximately 4.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease live at home. Seventy-five percent are cared for by family members, making caregiver health a matter of significant interest and importance.

The study enrolled 642 people who were caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder at sites in Birmingham, AL; Memphis, TN; Miami, FL; Palo Alto, CA; and Philadelphia, PA. Hispanics, Whites and African-Americans were evenly represented. The more than 200 participants in each ethnic group were randomized to receive either the intervention or a different approach used for controlled comparison.

The multi-component intervention featured a certified interventionist who provided 12 in-home or telephone-based one-on-one sessions combined with five telephone support groups over six months. The interventionist used strategies such as role playing, problem solving, skill training, and stress management to address five areas in which caregivers commonly experience problems and that are central to caregiver quality of life: depression, caregiver burden and stress, attention to personal health needs, social support, and problem behaviors exhibited by the care recipient. Based on the intensity with which each caregiver experienced problems in those areas, the intervention was tailored to meet the individual needs.

Coon, an investigator at the Palo Alto site prior to joining ASU, is taking the study a step further locally.

“We are working in cooperation with the State of Arizona and the NIA-funded Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium to form partnerships with Barrow Neurological Institute, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Sun Health Research Institute, Mayo Clinic, and the Desert Southwest Chapter of Alzheimer’s Association on two new projects serving families caring for older adults with memory problems,” said Coon. “We are addressing the needs of caregivers who are facing their own physical health concerns in addition to their caregiving responsibilities, and by streamlining key aspects of the original intervention project to increase its cost effectiveness.”

Coon’s “Assisting Latino Caregivers Project” provides free educational, skill building, and supportive services to Latino family caregivers, and provides the opportunity to meet other caregivers. The “Caregiver Health and Wellness Project” involves a personal interview with both Latino and Anglo/White caregivers who have their own chronic health conditions (overweight, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure). Participants in the Caregiver Health and Wellness Project are also offered a free workshop focused on strategies to enhance caregiver well-being and reduce caregiver stress.

“Both these programs have been created to obtain valuable input about caregiving for older adults with memory problems and to learn more about the types of programs that are needed, but may not yet be available to the community.” said Coon “Clearly, we want to partner with families and health and social service professionals to identify caregivers whose quality of life has been compromised, and provide the assistance they need. We hope to expand our partnerships and work in the future to include other organizations and other communities of caregivers.”

Steve Des Georges

ASU celebrates official launch of new School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

November 21, 2006

Arizona State University officially launched the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. In a ceremony at ASU’s West campus, the inaugural event included introductory remarks by ASU President Michael Crow, followed by a keynote speech by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor, and additional comments from campus Provost Mark Searle, and John Hepburn, dean of the College of Human Services.

Immediately following the ceremony, ASU hosted a panel discussion titled "Informing Criminal Justice Policy: Past Contributions and Future Needs." Distinguished panelists included Jack F. Harris, Police Chief, City of Phoenix; Michael D. Branham, director, Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections; and Barbara Broderick is the vice president of the American">">American Probation and Parole Association and chief probation officer of the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department in Arizona. Download Full Image

“The unique story that is ASU’s West campus continues its incredible growth and success with our launch of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice,” said Hepburn. “As dean, I am proud of the many accomplishments that lie ahead for the college and for the new school. We look forward to expanding the partnerships we currently enjoy and are dedicated to becoming even more embedded in the community than we already are.”

In August, the Arizona Board of Regents approved a proposal to designate the department of Criminal Justice and Criminology as the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, a move certain to ensure its ongoing development as one of the leading criminal justice programs in the United States.

The School, located within the College of Human Services, currently offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology and a professionally-oriented Master’s of Arts degree in Criminal Justice. To continue serving the region through its use-inspired research, the School will ultimately create new degree programs, including a doctoral degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, a new master’s degree and bachelor’s degree.

“This is an excellent time to be involved in criminal justice at Arizona State University,” said Scott Decker, director of the new School. “The School has an exceptional, interdisciplinary program with impressive, nationally recognized faculty that expands knowledge to a wide number of constituents—students, alumni, public policy makers, and other criminologists."

Faculty members within the School have international reputations and have held offices in professional associations, served on numerous criminal justice task forces and committees, and received various scholarly awards. They have served as council members, editors and associate editors of scholarly journals. Faculty research includes attention to major components of the criminal justice system, as well as the study of criminal behavior and law.

At ASU, criminology and criminal justice is a broad discipline, encompassing the scientific study of crime, criminals, the lawmaking process, the criminal justice system, and the treatment of offenders. The program draws upon many different disciplines including, sociology, psychology, political science, economics, history, mathematics and law. The School enjoys collaborative relationships with several academic units within ASU, including the School of Social Work, the School of Public Affairs, and the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

Through ongoing partnerships with government and private agencies, the School will be on the cutting edge of criminal justice issues that will substantively impact local and regional criminal justice outcomes. Its criminological research will link science and theory to matters of effective and responsible public policy.

“Issues such as human trafficking, drug and weapon smuggling, correctional practices, and a host of related issues make the mission of the School integral to the state,” said Decker. “Our faculty are embedded in the community through their many service activities, providing technical assistance to a wide range of agencies focused on reducing crime and improving community safety.”

The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice also fosters a culture of scholarship and academic excellence among its students. Graduates of the School have been highly successful in academic and in practice positions. Graduates find opportunities in the expanding academic field of criminal justice research and teaching, all the operating agencies of criminal justice, in the many private and non-profit organizations that provide services or make policy recommendations. “The launch of the School signifies a new beginning and a group of faculty, led by Scott Decker, who will write the next chapter of success,” said Hepburn. “We remain committed to building and strengthening the relationships and partnerships that help define the quality of life in our community.”

Steve Des Georges