Currently, one out of 12 people aged 65 and older will experience a decline in their ability to remember, think clearly, reason and make daily decisions.
The decline in memory and mental abilities may be subtle, but it limits quality of life and oftentimes leads to depression.
A new study seeks to better understand how to treat people with memory problems and who have a decreased ability to think clearly.
Misericordia University researcher James Siberski, M.S., and his colleague, Margie Eckroth-Bucher, R.N., associate professor of nursing at Bloomsburg University are spearheading the research. They are leading a team of students and faculty from two regional institutions of higher education in a six-month study.
The Integrated Cognitive Stimulation and Memory Care Program is designed to test what effects a specific set of activities will have on a person’s ability to think, reason, remember and make decisions.
Guests and residents at the long-term care facility are participating in the study through activities that are designed to promote decision making, stimulate concentration and hand-eye coordination, and to use their mental abilities by identifying words, and recognizing objects and words through sight.
The study, funded by grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association and the Deutsch Institute, will also determine what effects the activities might have on any symptoms of depression.
“This study is an important first step in understanding how routine daily activities might have a positive effect on the aging mind,’’ says Siberski. “With our aging population and baby boomers nearing retirement, it is vitally important for health care providers to find proven tools that slow down the deterioration of an older person’s cognitive abilities.’’
Siberski, Eckroth-Bucher and student researchers began the study in February by having a psychologist and nurse specialist examine the mental abilities of the volunteer subjects that range in age from 55 to 91. Their mental abilities will be retested 12 and eight weeks later to determine if results can be maintained. The tests determined if the volunteers were placed into one of three categories: no cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment and moderate cognitive impairment.
Researchers divided volunteers into two sections, a treatment group and control group. The treatment group is involved in the specific research activities, while the control group volunteers participate in the examinations, but maintain their normal schedule of activities.
The treatment group’s results from the mental status and cognitive ability examinations are entered into a computer which records the scores for each participant and exercise. The information will also be used to determine if the program’s activities had an effect on any individuals.
“Any useful information that can be gleaned through a study like ours can be groundbreaking because there is no known effective prevention or treatment for someone’s loss of mental ability,’’ Siberski says, explaining the importance of the study. “Preventative care is an important part of any health care provider’s job. Helping someone maintain their cognitive abilities prolongs their quality of life by allowing them to keep their independence and by preventing and treating depression.’’
Researchers will review their data after the study concludes in August. The data will be used to compile a report for publication and will be presented at conferences that Siberski delivers about Alzheimer’s disease. A final report will also be filed with the state Department of Aging.
Source: Misericordia University