Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible and progressive neurologic disorder that makes the brain shrink and slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. It is the most common cause of dementia worldwide, with its prevalence increasingly growing because of the aging population (Weller & Budson, 2018). In most cases, symptoms first appear in the person’s mid-60s. They include difficulty in remembering recent events, problems with speech, disorientation, mood swings, self-neglect, and behavioral issues. The disease is partly attributed to genetic factors, but its primary cause is still unknown.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and the available treatment options include medication, psychological interventions, and caregiving. Non-drug interventions are recommended as first-line treatments to improve the patients’ quality of life, support function, and address symptoms (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ], 2019). In the United States, multiple intervention programs exist that include behavioral, social, psychological, and environmental methods and approaches. One of them is the Reducing Disability in Alzheimer’s Disease (RDAD) program (http://www.kumc.edu/rdadkc.html) that aims to help adults with dementia maintain physical function and remain physically and mentally healthy (KU Medical Center [KUMC], 2020). This in-home support program works with caregivers of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease to improve these individuals’ ability to carry out the activities of daily living (KUMC, 2020). The program was initially developed at the University of Washington and is currently implemented within nine community agencies in the Kansas City region (Perales et al., 2020). On the community level, it teaches families and caregivers to provide better care for Alzheimer’s patients.
I chose RDAD because it is an illustrative example of a program developed at the university level and successfully introduced into local communities. It proved to be effective during the initial stage of implementation. According to the results of the research conducted in 2013 (Menne et al., 2013), “more exercise sessions are associated with a decrease in caregiver strain and more behavior management sessions are associated with a decrease in unmet needs after three months.” Its effectiveness at the initial stage provided a foundation for the program’s effective implementation at the community level.
Another reason that I find the most compelling is the program’s orientation towards both patients’ and caregivers’ needs. It focuses on exercise for people with dementia and coping with behavioral symptoms for caregivers (Perales et al., 2020). The program is effective because it allows non-licensed interventions, provides contact with a centralized support team, and supports fitting the intervention delivery to the dyads’ situation and needs (Perales et al.,, 2020). I think that targeting the intervention at both patients and caregivers ensures its effectiveness in addressing the whole range of issues.
The program is aimed at individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Eligibility criteria include living in the community, having moderate dementia, and ability and space to exercise (Perales et al.,, 2020). For program improvement, I would recommend expanding the target audience to include people with earlier and later stages of Alzheimer’s and more community involvement, including providing exercise space for patients. The program currently only targets individuals who can exercise at home, and providing a designated space where people with dementia can be involved in physical activities together can significantly improve the program’s outcomes. It would be beneficial for both patients and caregivers who would be able to communicate with each other on-site and share their knowledge and experience. Overall, the RDAD program is an effective way to address the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and improve the lives of both patients and caregivers.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2019). Care interventions for people living with dementia and their caregivers. Web.
Menne, H., Bass, D., Johnson, J., & Primetica, B. (2013). Statewide implementation of “Reducing Disability in Alzheimer’s Disease”: Impact on family caregiver outcomes. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 57(6–7). Web.
Perales, J., Barton, K., Ptomey, L., Niedens, M., & Vidoni, E. (2020). Effectiveness of reducing disability in Alzheimer’s disease among dementia patients and their family caregiver. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 16(S7). Web.
University of Kansas Medical Center. (2020). Reducing disability in Alzheimer’s disease (RDAD) – Kansas City. Web.
Weller, J., & Budson, A. (2018). Current understanding of Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment. F1000 Research, 7, 1–18. Web.