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Group Counseling Benefits People With Early Alzheimer’s

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Attending weekly group sessions helped people with early Alzheimer’s disease better manage their condition, a British study found. The groups, led by trained leaders, encouraged social interaction and discussion about living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Participants were encouraged to share ideas about ways to cope with the day-to-day challenges of living with Alzheimer’s. They were taught about lifestyle changes that may make living with dementia easier and were encouraged to take notes and reminders in notebooks.

“Developing dementia can be a scary and isolating experience,” said study leader Dr. Catherine Quinn of the University of Exeter. “We found early evidence that empowering people to manage their own symptoms and bringing them together helped them feel more confident about managing everyday life with dementia.”

“All this has helped to enhance their quality of life,” she added. “The group members became friends and supported each other, and we found that they benefited from being able to learn from each other.”

For the study, the researchers looked at 24 people with early-stage Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. About half attended the 90-minute training session once a week for eight weeks. The others got usual dementia care but did not attend group meetings.

Those with Alzheimer’s as well as their caregivers were interviewed after three months, and again after six months.

Those who had attended the group sessions scored higher on assessments of carrying out day-to-day tasks and reporting being better able to help themselves.They reported feeling more independent and better able to cope with their diagnosis. The findings appeared in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.

“We will need to carry out a larger scale trial to obtain more definitive evidence,” Dr. Quinn said. “But our initial results indicate that enabling people with dementia to take control and manage their condition can be beneficial.”

By ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site.Reviewed by William J. Netzer, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research at The Rockefeller University.

Source: Catherine Quinn, Gill Toms, Carys Jones, et al: “A pilot randomized controlled trial of a self-management group intervention for people with early-stage dementia (The SMART study).” International Psychogeriatrics.December, 2015.

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