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2018 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant to Promote Diversity (AARG-D)

Modifying a Telephone Based Care Program to Assess for Self-Neglect

Can a care program administered by telephone help, homebound older adults to carry out vital daily activities?

Sabrina Pickens
University of Texas
Houston, TX - United States


Homebound older adults often experience mental or physical disabilities that prevent them from taking prescribed medication, feeding themselves adequately, or conducting other vital daily activities. Collectively, these issues  contribute to self-neglect. Adults with self-neglect syndrome have an increased risk for hospitalization or enrollment in a long-term care facility. They also tend to exert a high emotional and physical burden on their caregivers, who are typically unpaid family members. Moreover, these individuals often come from low-income communities and have undiagnosed dementia.  

Research Plan

Dr. Sabrina Pickens and colleagues will test the effectiveness of a telephone-based care program for homebound individuals at risk of self-neglect. The researchers will enlist 30 older adults who screen positive for dementia and are enrolled in “Meals on Wheels”, a program that delivers food to people who are unable to prepare meals for themselves. Dr. Pickens  will also enroll the unpaid caregivers of these individuals. The intervention will assist their homebound participants in remembering to take medication and in performing other tasks. Dr. Pickens and colleagues will determine if such a therapy is able to prevent or ameliorate self-neglect syndrome and benefits the caregivers. 


If successful, this pilot study could lead to a larger effort at testing the effects of telephone-based therapy on homebound adults. Such treatments could offer cost-effective options for improving the quality of life for older, less independent individuals in all communities. 

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