A new study aim to find ways to help with agitation, a symptom that affects anywhere from 40-70 per cent of Alzheimer's patients and can also lead to worsening health.

“You don’t know exactly what the person is reacting to, but they are distressed and restless and it can also reach a point where they can be aggressive to people,” says Dr. Amer Burhan, associate scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute.

It can also lead to declining health, Burhan adds, “Those who have Alzheimer’s Disease and agitation tend to progress faster and tend to die more.”

It can also take a toll on caregivers.

“We see that people who care for people with agitation have more physical illnesses, more psychological illnesses, and it’s a tremendous burden on the whole system.”

Burhan says agitation is also difficult to treat, so he and his research team are recruiting patients for a study that uses psychosocial interventions on Alzheimer’s patients struggling with agitation that are living in the community.

The interventions are a “structured way of telling the caregiver and family member first how do you react to the agitation, how do you communicate with them when agitated and what can you do to organize some distraction that’s healthy for them?”

The patients will then be monitored over a six-month period to see if there are any improvements and/or if medication needs to be introduced. That's the first part of the study.

The second part of the study focuses on patients who have been admitted to hospital or are living in long-term care facilities who are experiencing agitation.

“So really it’s a system of care that involves any medication that’s currently approved to be used but has to be done in a certain way and we need to compare that to regular practice and to see if we will have an advantage of outcome and cost of care,” says Burhan.

The two-part study will take four years to complete and the research team is currently recruiting patients.

For anyone who wants information about the study they can contact amer.burhan@sjhc.london.on.ca or call 519-646-6100 Ext: 48170.