In the United States alone, there are an estimated four million individuals with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. With the population of aged persons growing rapidly the number of people with Alzheimer's disease may reach as high as 14 million in coming decades. In addition to affecting the persons with a diagnosis of AD, many other individuals are intimately involved. Amongst these are the families of the person with dementia. Over half of all AD patients are cared for at home, usually by a spouse or adult child. These caregivers are at risk themselves for poor health outcomes and significant stress. From this perspective, Alzheimer's disease may be considered a major public health concern.
One of the primary concerns caregivers face is the change in their loved one's behaviors. In fact, behavioral disturbances such as physical aggression, verbal hostility and overt sexuality are common in persons with Alzheimer's disease. These behavioral disturbances are often a result of the interaction between the patient and the environment. Key environmental factors often include the caregiver's reaction to and interaction with the patient. Fortunately, these interactions can be modified, with proper caregiver training and skill-building.
Although many helpful resources exist for caregiver training, there is a need for better knowledge collection and dispersal. Amongst the options this paper proposed were use of knowledge management and case-based reasoning, and virtual reality. Knowledge management and case-based reasoning were chosen as key options due to the potential for creation of and distribution of valuable information. The experience of caregivers themselves, as well as professionals, could be captured through knowledge management systems. Following the capture of knowledge, systems such as telephone Helplines and "Ask an Expert" websites could be used to disperse the information to caregivers nationwide.