By Kate Hunger
Two faculty members from the Department of Occupational Therapy are participating in an intervention program to help people with dementia and their caregivers.
Administered through the Caring for the Caregiver program, Care of Persons with Dementia in their Environments (COPE) is a standardized, evidence-based program intended to help caregivers develop the skills needed to manage care challenges related to dementia, while helping people with dementia stay at the highest level of function possible. Clinical Assistant Professor Laura Novak, OT, and Assistant Professor Precious Osuoha, Ph.D., OTR, received COPE training in order to participate in the project, which is funded by an Administration for Community Living grant.
The intervention, which includes home visits by occupational therapists and nurses, gives caregivers insights into how their own approach to situations, their body language, and stress level affect how the person they are caring for is able to function, Novak said. The goal is to focus on two or three issues that present a challenge, such as wandering or refusing to bathe.
Because of COVID-19, Novak and Osuoha switched this spring from home visits to telehealth visits. Osuoha said that although telehealth visits make it possible to work with more people, there is an undeniable advantage to meeting in homes.
“I think it provides a bit more meaning for them when you are working with them in their own environment,” she said. “The fact they are allowing me to stay in touch every other week to talk with them and provide strategies they need—I am all game for that.”
The program also provides stress management techniques and education for the caregiver.
“We also want to help caregivers take care of themselves,” Novak said.
Novak said the COPE team is collecting data and plans to publish the outcomes of the intervention.