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2022 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant to Promote Diversity (AARG-D)

E-Tailored Pain Management Support for Dementia Family Caregivers

Can a smartphone app help family caregivers treat pain in their care recipients with dementia?

Nai-Ching Chi, Ph.D.
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA - United States


Individuals with dementia often experience pain, which can significantly impact their quality of life. Poorly treated pain may lead to brain function decline, decreased sleep and behavioral problems in these individuals, making the work of their family caregivers more stressful. In initial research, Dr. Nai-Ching Chi and colleagues found that caregivers express several types of challenges in handling pain management for their care recipients with dementia. This includes a lack of knowledge in how to treat pain, insufficient communication with health care providers, and the reluctance of their care recipients to report pain. Based on these findings, the researchers developed a prototype smartphone app called the PACE-app, which can provide dementia caregivers with detailed information about pain management. The app is also designed to offer tools for communicating with health care providers and for developing individualized pain management plans.

Research Plan

Dr. Chi and colleagues will refine and test their PACE-app. First, they will enlist a group of family dementia caregivers to judge how easy the app is to use. Results from this study will be used to fine-tune various app features. The researchers will test the app’s effectiveness. Sixty family dementia caregivers will be recruited to receive either the PACE-app therapy or standard caregiver assistance without the PACE-app. Dr. Chi’s team will then use statistical techniques to compare how well the two therapies improved communication between caregiver and care provider, enhanced the way caregivers treat pain, and improved the well-being of both caregivers and their loved ones.


Results from this project could identify a novel, cost-effective digital tool to help support improved dementia care. As populations around the world continue to age and dementia becomes more prevalent, such a tool could be vital in reducing health care costs. 

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