Clinical research, from bench to bedside helping patients today

Hellen Kales, M.D.In today’s health care environment, patients and their families are being encouraged to take an active role in decision-making about prevention and treatment. For many caregivers, engagement can mean additional challenges and stress.

Helen Kales, M.D., is a leader in research focusing on the healthcare of older adults with mental health issues and dementia. Much of her work centers on collaborating with national and international teams to create innovative options for dementia caregivers, providing reliable and well-evaluated information and training, developing support tools, and studying how to enhance self-care. One web-based caregiver support tool developed by Kales and collaborators, called WeCareAdvisor, has been shown to measurably reduce caregiver distress.

The bedrock of the WeCareAdvisor tool is the “DICE” Approach (Describe the behavior, Investigate underlying causes, Create a treatment plan, Evaluate the plan) to dementia behaviors that was developed in 2011 by Kales and colleagues subsequent to a U.S. national multidisciplinary expert consensus panel led by Kales and the Program for Positive Aging. Kales and her colleagues published a paper outlining the DICE approach in 2014, and it has gained widespread attention as a nondrug approach to managing the behavioral aspects of dementia.

“We are committed to involving people with dementia and their caregivers as much as possible in their care. We are actively researching ways to enhance the alliance between clinicians and people with dementia and their caregivers so patients and families can make informed decisions about their treatment in a way that is not burdensome. We fully expect this work will lead to better outcomes and improved quality of life,” says Dr. Kales.

From decision aids and interactive web tools, U-M Medical School’s clinical researchers are looking for ways to facilitate increased patient engagement in healthcare, armed with the best possible evidence to make informed choices while being mindful of each patient’s individual needs, as well as providing much needed support to caregivers.

Helen C. Kales, M.D., is a Professor of Psychiatry, member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation and is director of the U-M Program for Positive Aging.

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