While some of us cringe at the thought of aging, the University of Minnesota’s Joseph Gaugler, Ph.D., finds it fascinating. Ever since he was an undergrad at Gustavus Adolphus College, Gaugler has been curious about aging, its effects on the mind and the types of care it demands.
Since that time, as a researcher, associate professor and McKnight Presidential Fellow within the School of Nursing, Gaugler has satisfied his curiosity by researching innovative care solutions for caregivers responsible for elderly people with memory compromising illnesses.
Gaugler currently has three ongoing studies, each focusing on a different aspect of caregiving or aging.
One project in particular focuses on the impact of Adult Day Services and how the program can lead to positive outcomes for people utilizing it.
Adult Day Services provides functionally impaired adults with an individualized and coordinated set of services including health services, social services and nutritional services. The goal is to maintain or improve the participant’s capabilities for self-care.
Another ongoing project looks at patterns of depression and functional changes and how they change before and after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As part of this project, Gaugler hopes to better understand the discrepancies between diagnosis during life and a post-mortem diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
“What do those people look like, what kind of medications are they using, how are they different?” questions Gaugler on how people manage an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. He hopes to find answers to help better treat patients while living.
Gaugler also places focus on caregivers. In yet another ongoing project, he is piloting a psychosocial program for families who recently placed a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
“We’re identifying a need families have around that transition point,” said Gaugler. “They are not only trying to find the right place for a loved one, but also dealing with feelings of guilt, emotional upheaval
, and disagreements surrounding the decision.”
Gaugler is highly intrigued by these types of support programs. In fact, he recently wrapped up a five year project where he crafted and tested his own comprehensive psychosocial support program.
The three-part program assisted adult children who cared for parents with Alzheimer’s disease or a dementia related illness. It included individual and family counseling, a support group for adult children, and a direct hotline for crisis information.
Through the program, stress for the whole family was better handled and the elderly were able to stay in their homes longer. This, in turn, delayed out of pocket expenses and saved money for families.
“What really excites me is talking to the family members and hearing about their needs and challenges,” said Gaugler. “Hearing from families about the difference our research is making is what fuels me.”
Through his research and projects, Gaugler works tirelessly to help families handle the care of their loved ones in a mutually beneficial, cost effective way. This dedication to advancing the care options for our aging community is what makes Joseph Gaugler this week’s Gamechanger.