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Alzheimer’s Association Helpline Helps Caregivers Take Action, Relieve Stress

A study – led by Penn Nursing’s Nancy Hodgson, PhD, RN, FAAN – found the Alzheimer’s Association Helpline offers significant improvements in caregiver’s emotional health. The results were first reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2019 in Los Angeles.

Family caregivers often find themselves isolated, stressed and overwhelmed as they try to manage care for family members with dementia. The Helpline is an easily accessible and free resource available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in which master’s degree-level clinicians offer confidential emotional support, valuable and actionable information and referrals to additional resources in the local community. 

To assess the effectiveness of the Helpline, Hodgson, who is an associate professor and the Anthony Buividas Term Chair in Gerontology at Penn Nursing, conducted a pilot survey of 185 caregivers who used the service between January and October 2018.  

The study found statistically significant improvements in caregiver’s emotional health, including a 27 percent improvement in caregiver emotional distress and 29 percent improvement in ability to manage stress. Additionally, 70 percent of callers surveyed put action steps into place within one week of calling the Helpline, 80 percent of callers put action steps into place within one month. Finally, 65 percent of callers were able to access additional dementia support services.

“Family caregivers of people with dementia often experience social isolation and limited access to emotional support,” said Hodgson. “This pilot study provides initial evidence of the profound impact that resources like the Alzheimer’s Association Helpline can have to reduce caregiver emotional stress and anxiety and improve the ability of callers to ‘take action’.”