Lessons in caregiving

Jim wants to see his brother today, but the brother died years before. Only Jim doesn't remember that because he has Alzheimer's disease. Should his wife, Becky, tell him the truth and risk upsetting him? Should she tell a little white lie? Ultimately, Becky relies on a technique she learned in an instructional video series that offers lessons and strategies for caring for loved ones with dementia, developed by Emory faculty.

While Jim and Becky are a fictional married couple in the series, the problems they confront are very real to those who support family members with dementia. Known as Tele-Savvy, the course offers a basic understanding of the causes of dementia and seeks to build empathy for the losses faced by the person with dementia: losses in thinking power, emotional control, the ability to direct one's own behavior, and the ability to handle day-to-day tasks.

A pilot study -- initially supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs and currently by the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center -- will test the effectiveness of Tele-Savvy. Ken Hepburn at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and Patricia Griffiths at the Atlanta VA Medical Center developed this Internet-based version of the Savvy Caregiver, a training program for family caregivers.

"Caregivers are busy giving care so they often don't have time to go to a class or attend a support group," Hepburn says. "These videos parse out information in small segments so our hope is that caregivers will access the information when they have time."

In addition to short, daily instructional modules, Tele-Savvy includes weekly video conferences, feedback questionnaires, and a detailed caregiver's manual. The program is actively recruiting family caregivers as research participants. For more information, call 404-480-2426 or send an email to