New plan to get people with dementia to start planning earlier

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New plan to get people with dementia to start planning earlier

Dr Jamie Bryant is one of 76 researchers to secure $43 million in grants.

A new national research project will measure whether geriatricians can increase rates of advance care planning among people with dementia, soon after their diagnosis.

The project, which yesterday secured a $574,421 Federal Government grant, will measure the impact of geriatricians providing people with dementia information about advance care planning and web-based support at the time of their diagnosis.

Half of the geriatricians recruited to the study will provide patients with a letter that explains the purpose of advance care planning. They will also direct patients to Alzheimer's Australia’s start2talk website, which offers state-specific planning tools and information and send a reminder three months after their initial appointment. The remaining geriatricians will not offer the interventions, providing a control group.

Funding for the research was secured by Dr Jamie Bryant, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Newcastle’s school of medicine and public health.

She was one of 76 researchers to share in $43 million fellowships announced by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which will explore ideas such as new ways to understand the progression of dementia in the brain, the role of intense exercise in protecting the ageing brain, and ways to build resilience in the dementia care workforce.

Dr Bryant said 400 people with dementia would participate in her four-year study.

“We will follow them over six months and look at how many have put an advance care plan in place and compare between the two groups to see whether the intervention increased the number of people who engaged in advance care planning,” said Dr Bryant, whose background is in public health and health behaviour and improving the health and psychosocial outcomes of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

“We know that individuals with dementia often express a preference for care that emphasises the quality of life rather than length of life and aggressive treatments or symptom management. We also know they are less likely to have their wishes for future care met if they don’t document their wishes.

“Given that people with dementia experience a gradual loss of cognitive function, we are hoping to engage them in advance care planning very soon after they are diagnosed and increase the number of people who appoint an enduring guardian.”

Geriatricians interested in participating in the trial can email Dr Jamie Bryant for further information.