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2015 Grants - Montross Thomas
A Legacy Project to Improve Dignity for Those Living with Dementia
Lori Montross Thomas, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
San Diego, California
2015 New Investigator Research Grant
Can Dignity Therapy help reduce symptoms of depression and improve well-being in people with dementia?
As people with dementia experience declines in memory and physical function, their psychological health can also be affected. Researchers are now studying ways to care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias that improves their mental health and sense of personal dignity. In one such method, called Dignity Therapy, individuals with dementia are encouraged to talk about cherished memories, life lessons, and hopes for loved ones. Therapists then collect the responses in a bound book, which they present as a keepsake to the individuals and their caregivers. Preliminary efforts with this technique have shown that it may reduce symptoms of depression and other psychological problems in dementia.
For their current grant, Lori Montross Thomas, Ph.D., and colleagues plan to determine more precisely how Dignity Therapy may impact the mental health of people with dementia and their caregivers. They will administer the therapy to 30 participants with early or middle-stage dementia and their care partners. The investigators will then assess their treatment’s ability to improve participant quality-of-life and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. They will also determine whether the treatment affected the caregivers’ level of burden and their sense of compassion for their loved ones. In addition, Dr. Montross Thomas and colleagues will assess how Dignity Therapy may be best implemented to reduce costs and will conduct post-treatment interviews with the participants to learn more about their opinions of the experience.
The results of this study could lead to larger, more extensive trials of Dignity Therapy. Such work could identify a novel, cost-effective method for improving dementia care and increasing quality-of-life for both the individual living with the disease and their caregiver.