Reducing Disability in Clients with Alzheimer's Disease

Nurse giving to senior woman physical therapy at home.

Specially trained coaches teach Alzheimer's clients and their caregivers how to exercise safely.

Earlier this year, Aging and Disability Services (ADS) began participating in "Reducing Disability in Alzheimer's Disease" (RDAD), a "translational study" conducted by the University of Washington School of Nursing. Our goal is to examine how exercise and other interventions help clients with Alzheimer's—and other forms of dementia—reduce disability.

Initial research findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2003) showed significant short- and long-term benefits for people in the treatment group. Physical functioning improved and fewer participants ended up in nursing homes due to behavioral disturbances. The current study seeks to adapt the RDAD model to real-world settings where costs and delivery methods dictate minor adjustments.

The intervention employed by ADS consists of nine home visits by a specially trained RDAD "coach" over a six-week period. During these one-hour sessions, the coach teaches easy-to-follow exercises to both the caregiver and care receiver (i.e., the person with dementia). The coach teaches the caregiver how to encourage and safely supervise the care receiver while doing the exercises.

The coach also teaches caregivers how to handle some of the problems that occur with older adults who have memory problems or dementia.

After the ninth in-home session, the coach contacts the caregiver once a month for four months for a brief review of the program. The University of Washington also conducts several phone interviews to help gather the data needed for their research.

Two ADS staff—Tatyana Yerokhin and Charisse Jordan—have been trained as RDAD coaches. Their current goal is to serve 26 caregiver-receiver couples this year—13 couples per coach. The caregiver and care receiver should live in Seattle or south King County. Participation is free.

If you know someone who seems like a good candidate, contact ADS caregiver services coordinator Kristine Broome (kristine.broome@seattle.gov or 206-684-4692).

Among other responsibilities, ADS planner Doug Ricker coordinates the King County Caregiver Support Network and grants and other activities involving family caregiver support, kinship care, and dementia care.