York U researchers receive CIHR funding to study dementia care

Nurse consoling her elderly patient by holding her hands

Professors Matthias Hoben, Tamara Daly and Liane Ginsburg from the York University Centre for Aging Research & Education (YU-CARE) have been awarded $750,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Aging (CIHR-IA) to support their study examining the impact of day programs on individuals living with dementia and their caregivers.

This funding opportunity, made possible through the CIHR-IA’s Brain Health and Cognitive Impairment in Aging: Implementation Science Team Grants, is supporting 10 projects that plan to evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs, services and models of care for those impacted by cognitive impairment and dementia, and to improve access to care and support.

According to the York U research team, most individuals with dementia and their caregivers want the person in need of care to remain at home for as long as possible; however, doing so safely and well may become challenging as the affected person’s needs increase. Adult day programs aim to maintain or improve older adults’ health and well-being, while also providing respite to caregivers.

The researchers are setting out to address what they identify as a lack of robust Canadian research on the effects of day programs on older adults living with dementia and their caregivers, especially those of equity-deserving groups with multiple, intersecting vulnerabilities.

“Health systems have increasingly shifted care for people with dementia from institutions to the community,” says Hoben, the Helen Carswell Chair in Dementia Care. “While care in the community is the preference of persons with dementia and their family/friend caregivers, most of the care is provided by caregivers who, in turn, receive little support.”

The team believes supports are important for both the person needing care and their caregivers, so they are examining the effectiveness of adult day programs as a method of support.

“Adult day programs are among the few community supports that aim to meet these simultaneous needs,” Hoben explains, “but we lack research on their effectiveness and on how and why they do or do not work.”

By partnering with key experts across Canada – those in need of care, their caregivers, advocates, day program staff and health system policymakers – this project aims to reveal how and why day programs have positive, negative or no effects on people with dementia and their caregivers, uncovering important avenues for improving their effectiveness.

With the help of the CIHR-IA funding, and in collaboration with health systems and regional Alzheimer societies, the team will recruit individuals with dementia who have recently been admitted to day programs and their primary caregivers. The researchers will compare them to a group that is not using day programs. They will also assess how program characteristics and the social identities of participants are associated with study outcomes. To further contextualize the data, they will conduct semi-structured interviews and focus groups.

“I am passionate about supporting persons with dementia and their caregivers,” says Hoben, “and this research will be an important step to build these supports.”

For more information about the funding, visit the Canadian Institutes of Health Research website.