Responding to dementia symptoms can be stressful, especially for spousal partners. Living with a partner with early-stage dementia means that spouses are often the first to witness changes in their partners and to provide daily support and assistance.
But care often is lacking for the caregivers themselves. Studies have shown that spousal care partners have a greater risk of death, functional disability, and cognitive decline compared to other family care partners. And even when help arrives, it’s often too late to be effective.
Associate Professor of Public Health Joan K. Monin was the lead author of a study that suggests that a promising early intervention targeted at spousal care partners not only increases their quality of life but also may positively impact their partners living with dementia, according to the study.
The intervention, known as the Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan (WOOP) strategy, which has been used in health contexts from back pain to relationship dysfunctions, has been shown to be highly effective in over 20 years of research. Its steps include identifying a feasible wish, finding a desirable outcome, recognizing the internal and controllable obstacle, and coming up with a concrete plan to overcome the obstacle.
The researchers wrote that WOOP differs from other therapeutic approaches because it involves vividly imagining not only the wish but also the outcome and identifying the obstacle that can be overcome with a simple “if, then” plan — components that make goals easier to achieve.