Texas A&M co-develops new online resource for dementia caregivers: Texas Cares

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a lonely role, but a new online resource may help. The new program, known as Texas Cares, aims to provide wellness programs, transportation planning and engagement in activities for dementia patients and education, support and assistance for family caregivers. Marcia Ory, PhD, regents and distinguished professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health and Alan Stevens, PhD, director of the Center for Applied Health Research at Baylor Scott & White Health jointly developed and will run this project, which has received $400,000 in funding.

Ory also serves as director of the Center for Population Health and Aging at Texas A&M. Texas Cares aligns with the center’s mission, which is to improve the health of Texas’ aging population through applied and basic research, wellness promotion and disease prevention and development of evidence-based programs and technologies.

“This is indeed a unique partnership involving Texas A&M, Baylor Scott & White Health and the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, all working together to make a difference in Alzheimer’s care,” Ory said. “Our goal is to reduce the burdens of care that are anticipated to only increase with the rapid aging of the Texas population, but the impact of this effort can be much larger with Texas Cares serving as a model for the nation.”

Family caregivers of dementia patients often work outside of the home, which can make caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s and other related conditions challenging. The Texas Care project aims to help those caregivers and the patients who rely on them through two new online resources that build on a wealth of information and resources from the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC).

“All Texans should have access to educational information on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, including specific information on how to locate local services and supports,” Stevens said. “Although printed literature is widely available, new efforts are needed to provide online information and access to individualized support due to the growing demographic of internet‐literate family caregivers.”

The first of these resources is a story-driven website that provides targeted health literacy information and resources on Alzheimer’s disease. Printed literature containing medical facts and information on how to find local services exists, but putting these resources in one place online makes the information more accessible and convenient for family caregivers with limited time.

The second resource is an online version of Resources of Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH II), which is a leading evidence-based family caregiver support approach. This will give wider access to many of the tools that REACH II provides, such as individualized caregiver assessments and feedback and exercises to help build the skills needed to care for people with dementia.

“These resources will first undergo a pilot study, after which they will be made available to employees at Texas state-supported universities, with a future planned expansion to other state agencies and private employers,” said Ory. “Providing employed family caregivers with these resources will benefit those workers and their employers as the additional responsibilities of dementia care affect employee well being and lead many to retire early, impacting the workforce.”

Through Texas Cares, the Texas A&M School of Public Health and Baylor Scott & White Health will promote new effective ways to support people with dementia and family caregivers. This project will apply and add to the research efforts of the TARCC, which is funded by the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders and part of the Darrell K Royal Texas Alzheimer’s Initiative.