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April 12th, 2012 - OKCBiz Staff

Alzheimer's study aims to prolong independence

A former prison chaplain who advocates now for Alzheimer's patients worries that one day he will unable to keep up daily tasks and become a burden on his family.

dementiatrialRon Grant, a retired prison chaplain with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and Carrie Ciro talk about a new research study at the OU College of Allied Health.

Ron Grant, 59, was diagnosed four years ago with early onset Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia among older adults. Alzheimer's disease impacts 5.4 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

Right now, I can do most of these things, but tomorrow, I don't know,”Grant said.

University of Oklahoma researchers are testing a new approach aimed at preserving cognitive function in people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

The STOMP, or Skill-building through Task-Oriented Motor Practice, method uses repetitive therapy in an effort to strengthen and preserve “procedural memory,” which is memory for how daily living tasks are done.

While conscious memory for facts and personal information is impaired in dementia, procedural memory – unconscious memory for activity performance – is retained late in the disease. Our brain is hard-wired to improve in activities that we practice,” said Carrie Ciro, primary investigator and assistant professor of occupational therapy in the OU College of Allied Health.

Ciro said there is no standardized, non-pharmaceutical intervention for minimizing loss in daily life skills. This results in dramatic loss of independence, caregiver burden and risk of institutionalization.

Ciro hopes to recruit individuals with mild to moderate dementia for a trial starting in July. The research will be conducted in an 880-square-foot lab in the OU College of Allied Health that is set up like a typical home. The space includes a working kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, waiting area for caregivers and computer room for testing computer and paper skills.

The study is funded by a $29,362 grant from the office of the OUHSC Vice President of Research.

Grant said research like Ciro’s is critical to combating the disease.

I absolutely love the fact that it’s being done because it’s an attempt to try to help those of us with the disease maintain that independence, and to maintain the quality of life that we had before the disease started chipping away at it.”

For additional information, visit www.ah.ouhsc.edu/rehab/stomp.asp.

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