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Calming agitated Alzheimer’s patients focus of studies

A pair of clinical trials being conducted in London aims to cut down on stress and reduce agitation for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.

St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s Parkwood Institute is one of several sites across Canada and the United States participating in the two interventional studies.

“These studies are designed to have a direct impact on patients, families and care providers, to improve quality of life and function in those suffering from agitation due to Alzheimer’s,” Lawson Health Research Institute Scientist and trial lead Dr. Amer Burhan said in a statement.

The first study looks to help caregivers and patients who still live at home understand the reasons for agitation in those with Alzheimer’s Disease, using psychosocial intervention. That can include communicating with patients in a manner that creates calm, scheduling meaningful activities, and maintaining routine and rhythm in life. Researchers will also speak to families early after diagnosis to ensure they have support tools.

The patients will be reassessed after three weeks. Those who still display significant agitation will be given a placebo or S-Citalopram — a medication to treat agitation — while still undergoing psychosocial care.

The second study focuses on patients in hospital or long-term care homes. Following a baseline assessment, patients will be randomly selected to either receive the traditional treatment or an “integrated care pathway derived from evidence-informed treatment guidelines.” The integrated care pathway includes individualizing behavioural and environmental support, and if medications are needed, using a select set and dosage based on best evidence.

“Better understanding agitation is a growing area of interest in geriatric research,” said Burhan. “The work being done locally is part of an international effort to create a paradigm shift in treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease and agitation.”

Agitation is known to be a major source of stress for patients and caregivers and can be difficult to treat, according to researchers. In the past, families have not always been warned about this symptom of Alzheimer’s and are not properly trained on how to manage care while dealing with it.

Alzheimer’s patients and their families who would like to learn more about the studies are advised to contact Dr. Burhan at amer.burhan@sjhc.london.on.ca or call 519-646-6100 ext. 48170.