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Skills Training Helps Alzheimer's Caregivers Cope

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Researchers evaluating the effectiveness of Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer's Caregiver Health found that carefully designed intervention programs can make life better for those caring for loved ones with dementia.

Conducted by the University of South Florida and the University of Alabama in Birmingham, the research found that, when a group of caregivers was given "skills training" in problem solving, behavior management techniques, improving coping skills, improving their own diet and exercise, and making time for pleasant events and leisure activities, they reported that they experienced reduced stress, felt more positive about their caregiving roles and experienced increased satisfaction with leisure activities.

"Increasing the adjustment of these highly stressed caregivers was an important goal of this study,'' says William Haley, an author of the study and director of the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida. "However, a unique goal of this study was to address the common needs of white and African-American caregivers while remaining responsive to cultural differences."

According to Haley, race and culture are known to affect the experience of caregiving, but no previous studies evaluated the effectiveness of a caregiver intervention across racial, ethnic and cultural lines.

"Based on our observations, we believe that African-American caregivers were more responsive than others to the therapeutic, one-on-one relationship provided in the more intensive training sessions,'' Haley says. '`African-American caregivers also reported a significant increase in the positive aspects of caregiving."

Carolyn Susman writes for The Palm Beach Post. E-mail:

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