Monthly Phone Call Can Reduce Depression In Caregivers

KCBS Radio Weekend News
October 06, 2019 - 8:30 am

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(KCBS Radio) – A monthly phone call can stave off depression and ER visits for people with dementia and their caregivers.

Researchers with the UCSF Memory and Aging Center tracked 780 pairs of dementia patients and caregivers and found that a monthly 40-minute phone call reduced the number of caregivers with moderate-to-severe depression from 13.4% to 7.9%. In contrast, the control group saw an increase from 8% to 11.1%.

“It can be a socially isolating role to take on,” says Dr. Kate Possin, neurology professor at UCSF and one of the study’s authors. “And the person with dementia certainly loses the ability to communicate as the disease progresses.”

Related studies have suggested that depression in caregivers can result in their patients making more ER visits, and this study estimated the monthly check-ins prevented about 120 trips to the emergency room.

“The intervention was associated with better quality of life and dementia, reduced depression and feelings of burden in the caregiver and a reduction of emergency department use in the patient,” says Sarah Dulaney, a geriatric clinical nurse specialist at UCSF and one of the authors of the study.

The check-ins were conducted entirely by phone and online, which means this could prove a crucial form of care for people who would other lack access to dementia resources.

Dr. Possin says their patients were based in California, Nebraska and Iowa, including “…in rural areas or in regions where they just might not be able to access dementia specialty care. This was the only care that they received and we think we had a bigger impact for those families.”

Dulaney adds that there are an unprecedented number of people living with dementia right now, and that it's crucial for health care systems to find ways to support family caregivers who have to jump into the role.

“They’re not necessarily going to be prepared for that role emotionally,” says Dulaney. “They’re not going to have the knowledge, skills or financial resources.”