There has been an increased focus on early diagnosis for dementia and Alzheimer’s, but there’s been no research about the benefit of that diagnosis for caregivers. A new study in Indiana will be the first to examine that issue.
An estimated 338,000 Hoosier family caregivers provide billions in unpaid care a year for people with Alzheimer’s disease alone. General clinical thinking is that if you can plan for that role it can help manage it.
But Regenstrief Institute Investigator Nicole Fowler says scientists are the first to point of the flaw in that theory.
"It’s often stated that there’s no data to support that," says Fowler.
Fowler will lead a study that was recently awarded with a $3 million grant from the National Institute on Aging. She says there’s already an understanding that dementia is a family disease.
"This will really help us understand what the impact of screening and early identification can do to that unit and maybe even impact policy," says Fowler.
For example, if providers have data that early diagnosis can ease burden they may more likely make correct referrals.
On the flip side, it's not know if an early diagnosis could make things worse.
"Do we actually induce harm and we’re measuring harm by depression and anxiety and mood among the family members," says Fowler.
The study will recruit 1,800 older adults from Indiana and 1,800 potential caregivers for the five-year study.