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Grants for Flinders Uni dementia research projects to overcome common hurdles

Common hurdles that caretakers and relatives face in understanding and accommodating a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are being investigated by researchers from Flinders University, made possible by grants from the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.

<p>(Source: Shutterstock)</p>

(Source: Shutterstock)

Common hurdles that caretakers and relatives face in understanding and accommodating a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are being investigated by researchers from Flinders University, made possible by grants from the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.

In total, three Flinders researchers secured $225,000 for their projects in the latest Grants Program.

Dr Miia Rahja and her team at the College of Medicine and Public Health are now able to create an evidence-based program to assist with communication between carers and people with dementia living in residential aged care homes.

“Programs that teach loved ones how to communicate with people living with dementia, to involve them in activities that are suitable to their abilities, or to understand behavioural changes that may occur when the person with dementia has difficulty expressing their needs or wants, have not been available in residential care up to this point,” said Dr Rahja.

Dr Rahja’s work is thanks to the Lucas’ Pawpaw Remedies Project Grant worth $75,000, with the brand being an active sponsor of Dementia Australia. 

“Our study will adapt one such program that was designed for persons living in the community to residential care. We will use surveys, interviews and group discussions to find out how beneficial the program can be in this setting. The research will then look at how these types of programs can be included in residential care in the future,” Dr Rahja added.

Practitioner Fellow at Caring Futures Institute, Dr Suzanne Dawson, is another recipient of $75,000 grant money, which will be put to good use as she leads a study on the efficacy of weighted blankets, to assist people with dementia who experience disturbed sleeping patterns.

“Sleep disturbances result in decreased quality of life for the person with dementia and cause significant stress for caregivers. Sleep disturbances are also associated with increased admissions to care settings and higher healthcare costs. As such, sleep disturbances for people living with dementia are recognised as a major challenge that needs to be addressed,” said Dr Dawson.

“The use of weighted blankets is emerging as a safe sleep intervention option, although little is known about the effectiveness for people with dementia. If successful, weighted blankets could be an easily implemented intervention to improve sleep outcomes and quality of life for people living with dementia.”

Dr Kristie Stefanoska received $75,000 in Bondi2Barossa project grant Funding, which will go towards research of Alzheimer’s disease development by analysing how tau-induced brain cell death contributes to cognitive decline.

Dr Stefanoska said scientists are seeking to investigate the toxic clumping of a brain protein called tau and why it is underlying in Alzheimer’s disease.

“This destroys the structure of neurons and prevents important nutrients from reaching parts of the brain. Those parts eventually shrink and die. Unfortunately, we don’t know why or how this occurs, so our team will increase our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease development,” said Dr Stefanoska.


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For more information about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease care, please visit Talking Aged Care’s dementia portal.

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