Dr. Keefe Slight head tiltWith an aging population in Nova Scotia comes a new set of challenges for caregivers and their families.

Dr. Janice Keefe, Canada Research Chair in Aging and Caregiving and professor in the Family Studies and Gerontology department at the Mount is working to address these issues. Dr. Keefe was recently awarded two separate research grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), one examining new approaches to the delivery of care in long term care facilities and the other based in the community with spousal caregivers of persons with dementia. 

The first project, “Care and Construction: Assessing Differences in Nursing Home Models of Care on Resident Quality of Life” is a multi-disciplinary and multi-sector research project focusing on how the different physical designs and staffing approaches in nursing homes may impact residents’ quality of life.

The project involves a partnership among researchers, nursing home administrators and representatives from government and the nursing home sector.  This partnership approach is critical to developing and implementing the research as well as taking the research findings and putting them into practice in the continuing care sector. 

“The knowledge generated by this project will guide seniors, families and service providers, in Nova Scotia and beyond, to improve our capacity to provide high quality long term care,” says Dr. Janice Keefe Principal Investigator and Canada Research Chair in Aging and Caregiving Policy at the Mount. “This is an exciting project, as there has never been a study that has taken an evidence-based research approach to looking at this.”

This work will also provide the Nova Scotian continuing care sector with necessary information to justify and advocate for supportive programs, policies and services. The research project will be conducted at Mount Saint Vincent University through until 2014.

As part of her overall focus on research in aging, Dr. Keefe is also working on another grant supported research project funded by the CIHR Institute of Aging, the Canadian Nurses Foundation and the Parkinson Society of Canada.

The project examines the role of older spousal adults offering care spouses experiencing any level of memory loss, cognitive impairment or dementia (including Alzheimer’s Disease). The goal of the project is to better understand the specific challenges faced by spousal caregivers. Dr. Keefe and colleagues developed a 10-part caregiver assessment questionnaire that examines the lives of those who are caring for an older family member. This assessment instrument, known as the C.A.R.E. Tool (Caregivers’ Aspirations, Realities and Expectations) is an integral part of the research.

Dr. Keefe says that family and friend caregivers supporting older adults with health limitations in the community are an essential part of our health care system. But, these caregivers need support, both to ensure their own well being, and that of the people for whom they care.

The project will examine 100 older spousal caregivers from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It will also examine the learning experiences of third-year nursing students from Dalhousie University and the University of Prince Edward Island as they work as research assistants in conducting these assessments. Currently, more than 40 older spousal caregivers of persons with cognitive impairment have been interviewed.

“Ultimately we hope that education about caregivers and their needs can be more effectively developed and incorporated into the training of all health care professionals.  This will enable health care practice to reflect the challenges and rewards associated with caregiving,” says Dr. Keefe.

Cognitive impairment and dementia affects many families.  If you or someone you know is over the age of 65 and caring for a spouse at home who has memory problems, you can find additional information by visiting the project website (www.msvu.ca/nsca/caregiverassessment) or contact Mary Leslie at the project office at 1-877-302-4440.