Oct. 1, 2018

Improving the lives of people living with dementia and their family caregivers

Dr. Gwen McGhan, assistant professor, UCalgary Nursing is trying to improve outcomes for caregivers and the older adults they care for
Dr. Gwen McGhan, assistant professor
Dr. Gwen McGhan, assistant professor, UCalgary Nursing Colleen De Neve

Gwen McGhan wants to improve outcomes for caregivers and the older adults for whom they provide care in various settings, including the community. Working with UCalgary nursing instructor Kimberly Shapkin and Kinesiology’s Jessica Power Cyr as her co-investigators, she believes their 12-week feasibility study, which began in July, will shed light on what the person living with cognitive impairment and the family caregiver need to promote the best quality of life possible.

“The study is made up of two components for the person living with dementia – one is cognitive; the other is physical,” explains McGhan. “For two hours a day, two days a week there will be a series of activities in a group setting. A recreational therapist will examine what happens to the mood, for example, and a certified exercise psychologist will study fitness and measure it throughout the 12-week period. During the same time period, we will also be examining the family caregiver’s perception with the program.”

Understanding that “one size doesn’t fit all,” volunteers will help individuals in the group based on their level of comfort with various exercises, says McGhan.

Based out of the Glencoe Club in southwest Calgary with a preexisting group that is already part of that community, McGhan is hopeful that results will prove such a program is valuable and that it can be adapted for many diverse communities. “After the three months are over, we will bring everyone together for a focus group to discuss the acceptability of the program from the perspective of the participants. Was this a resource for them? Was it helpful in their daily lives? We need to capture the experience and see if it was beneficial.”

What's next: We would like to develop a toolkit or guide that can be used in many different areas of a city, for different kinds of groups to boost that quality of older adults’ and their caregivers’ lives.