With recent advances in diagnostic procedures and treatment options, many individuals with AD are now diagnosed early in the disease. Early diagnosis has many benefits: treatment can be started sooner, legal and financial planning can be addressed while the individual is able to participate in decision-making, and support services can be mobilized earlier. However, early diagnosis may also have negative consequences for the diagnosed individual's quality of life. Thus, diagnosis creates an obligation to help individuals and their families learn more about AD and cope with the impact of the diagnosis. Many Alzheimer's Association chapters have begun providing early stage support groups that focus on enhancing quality of life for participants and their caregivers. Anecdotal reports suggest that these groups improve quality of life of participants, but some individuals may also experience decreases in quality of life associated with stress, depression, or family conflict as a result of discussing current and future losses in the group. Thus, there is a need to systematically evaluate the benefits of these groups. This proposal is a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of a structured, 9-session Early Stage Support Group intervention (ES) for individuals with early stage AD and their family caregivers. It is a collaborative effort between the University of Washington and the Alzheimer's Association Western and Central Washington Chapter. A total of 150 participant-caregiver dyads will be recruited and randomly assigned to ES or a one-session education control condition (ED). Experienced interviewers who are blind to treatment condition will assess participants at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months. Primary outcomes (for both the person with early stage AD and the family caregiver) focus on quality of life. Secondary outcomes focus on factors that have been demonstrated to be associated with quality of life, including depression, participation in pleasant activities, and family relationships. Finally, since a goal of Early Stage Support Groups is to empower participants to engage in decision-making regarding planning for future needs, exploratory measures will be used to evaluate the extent to which participants experience enhanced self-efficacy and engage in decision making regarding legal, financial, and medical planning.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Adult Psychopathology and Disorders of Aging Study Section (APDA)
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Spotts, Erica L
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University of Washington
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Logsdon, Rebecca G; Pike, Kenneth C; McCurry, Susan M et al. (2010) Early-stage memory loss support groups: outcomes from a randomized controlled clinical trial. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 65:691-7
Logsdon, Rebecca G; McCurry, Susan M; Teri, Linda (2007) Evidence-Based Interventions to Improve Quality of Life for Individuals with Dementia. Alzheimers care today 8:309-318