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2017 Grants - Supiano
Group Therapy for Dementia Caregivers at Risk for Complicated Grief
Katherine Supiano, Ph.D.
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant (AARG)
Can a novel group therapy intervention help prevent complicated grief in dementia caregivers?
Most people manage the loss of a family member to dementia with coping skills, social supports and time. However, up to 20% of caregivers experience a state of bereavement that is known as “complicated grief.” Complicated grief is identified when prolonged and debilitating feelings of loss significantly impair normal life function. In previous studies, Katherine Supiano, Ph.D., has shown the effectiveness of complicated grief group therapy (CGGT) in caregivers who have already lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s disease. From that study, the researchers have identified elements of the intervention that could be delivered prior to the death of a loved one as a possible prevention for those at risk for complicated grief.
Katherine Supiano, Ph.D., and colleagues have adapted the CGGT intervention to help facilitate death preparedness and eventual bereavement in dementia caregivers at risk for complicated grief. They will determine if the intervention, Pre-Loss Group Therapy (PLGT), can prevent or reduce complicated grief if delivered prior to the death of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. They will recruit 40 family caregivers at risk for complicated grief whose care recipient has a life expectancy of 6 months or less and is living in a long-term care facility. The PLGT intervention includes 10 sessions of group therapy focused on addressing pre-loss preparedness with elements including supportive engagement and cognitive behavioral therapy. The researchers hypothesize that at 3-months following the death of their loved one with dementia, the PLGT participants will show reduced risk for complicated grief.
If successful, the results of this pilot study could lay the foundation for larger clinical studies to evaluate the effectiveness of PLGT in preventing complicated grief in caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Ultimately, this intervention could be widely delivered in community-based settings to address the unmet need for programs that reduce the risk of complicated grief in dementia caregivers.