A potential link between natural temperament and behaviour problems in Alzheimer's patients could have important implications for caregivers, say U of G researchers.
Psychology professor Mary Konstantareas and graduate student Valerie Temple want to know if temperament can be used to predict behaviour problems such as aggression in people with Alzheimer's, a degenerative disease characterized by dementia.
The researchers say results of their study could allow caregivers to take necessary precautions and help them provide more individualized care for patients.
"The behavioural aspects of Alzheimer's patients cause the most distress to caregivers and loved ones," says Temple. "If we can help them anticipate certain behaviours, they can better prepare themselves and their surroundings."
Temple believes that patients with moderate activity levels and more adaptable temperaments may display relatively infrequent problem behaviour, compared with those who have more difficult dispositions. She's looking for specific patterns of temperament characteristics that lead to a higher or lower incidence of behaviour disturbances.
Behaviour problems commonly associated with Alzheimer's disease include wandering, increased agitation, day-night reversal and aggression. Temperament is the relatively consistent, basic disposition inherent in a person that influences level of activity, reactivity, emotionality and adaptability.
The sample population for the study includes patients and caregivers from Surrey Place Centre (a Toronto facility for individuals with developmental disabilities), local associations for community living and adult dementia day programs. Temple is conducting interviews with caregivers and patients, as well as using questionnaires and observations, to assess each participant's temperament and to determine the incidence, frequency and severity of problem behaviour.
Situational factors are also being explored to ensure that difficult behaviour isn't triggered by specific circumstances. When all data are collected by the end of this year, they will be analysed for connections between temperament characteristics and behaviour patterns.
In another part of her study, Temple is comparing behaviour of Alzheimer's patients with Down's syndrome to that of the general Alzheimer's population. People with Down's syndrome face a high risk of developing Alzheimer's, and because more individuals with Down's are living longer, this combination of conditions is becoming an important care issue.
Knowledge of potential differences between the two populations is important for adult day-care employees because both groups may attend the same programs. Employees need to feel adequately trained and prepared to provide proper and individualized care to each client. According to Temple, about 60 per cent of adult day-care program workers currently feel inadequately prepared to deal with Alzheimer's patients with Down's syndrome and want more information and training.
Results of this study will be made available to local Alzheimer care programs and all interested participants. To participate in the research or to obtain more information, call Temple at 416-925-5141, Ext. 234.
This research is sponsored by the Alzheimer Society of Canada and the Surrey Place Centre Foundation.