Skip Navigation

Dr. Gitlin Appears Before Senate Special Committee

Posted: 12/10/2010

Laura Gitlin, PhD, an applied sociologist who will become a Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) faculty member in February 2011, recently showcased her work with dementia patients before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Appearing on behalf of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), Dr. Gitlin, described how occupational therapy improves functional dependence of dementia patients and home care-giving and explained the results of her Care of Persons with Dementia in their Environment (COPE) trial. During COPE, researchers documented that anti-dementia medications showed few--if any--benefits for physical function or caregiver burden and may have substantial adverse effects.

For more information, see the AOTA release below:

Aging Expert Will Speak On Non-Drug Therapies in Alzheimers Treatment

December 7, 2010--The Senate Special Committee on Aging will learn how occupational therapy improves functional dependence of dementia patients and home care-giving.

Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, Director of the Jefferson Center for Applied Research on Aging and Health (CARAH) at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, will explain the results of Care of Persons with Dementia in their Environment (COPE) trial.

During COPE, researchers documented that anti-dementia medications showed few--if any--benefits for physical function or caregiver burden and may have substantial adverse effects.

After four months of COPE intervention, Gitlin's team observed improvement in functional dependence for patients, most notably for such activities as using the telephone, shopping, preparing meals, and doing housework.  A slight increase was also noted for self-care activities such as bathing, dressing and grooming.  Caregivers who were also undergoing COPE treatment reported improvement in well-being and confidence.

"This study requires a new way of thinking about dementia care by physicians and practitioners, and highlights the important role of occupational therapists and nurses as part of the dementia care team," says Dr. Gitlin. "It reinforces other recent findings that non-pharmacological, bio-psychosocial-environmental interventions may positively contribute to disease management of patients with dementia who live at home and their caregivers. More research is needed to examine effects of underlying medical conditions, ways to boost treatment effects, cost-effectiveness, and other issues, but this is an indication that non-pharmacologic approaches should be integrated into the standard of care of patients with dementia."

More than five million people in the United States suffer from dementia; that number is estimated to reach 13.5 million by 2050. Most live at home and are cared for by family members. With disease progression, families increasingly provide hands-on physical assistance with the activities of daily living.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging Forum Until There's A Cure: How to Help Alzheimers Patients and Families NOW will be held on Wednesday, December 8, 2010 from 1-3 pm in room G50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.