On October 19th, I had the opportunity to present research related to the HABIT Healthy Action to Benefit Independence & Thinking Program ® at the National Academy of Neuropsychology Annual Conference in New Orleans. I was invited to present with a colleague, Dr. Sarah Tomaszewski Farias from the University of California-Davis on interventions to prevent or delay dementia. It was such an honor!
For my part of the presentation I presented a summary of the Mayo Clinic team's work on the HABIT program, extending back to our work evaluating the benefits of the memory support calendaring system. That work shows the benefit of adopting the organized but portable memory support system for those diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment--specifically in helping individuals function better, have more confidence and have improved mood.
I also shared some early evidence from our latest research trial, in which we left out one of the five components of the HABIT program each time we ran a session to determine what the impact of that loss was on our patients and their partners. Our patients consented to being part of this research and knew they would be missing something from their version of the HABIT program, but the did not know what would be missing. So far, when we look at patient outcomes including quality of life, self-efficacy, depression, and anxiety, it looks like all of the components except cognitive exercise contribute to outcomes in our patients in some way--However, one outcome we have not yet evaluated is actual cognitive functioning on cognitive testing. We await the results of that analysis as this could be an area where the cognitive exercise class is beneficial. When we look at partner outcomes such as quality of life, burden, depression, and anxiety, it appears that the wellness classes and our yoga classes are providing the most impact to these outcomes in our partners in HABIT. We continue to evaluate the data and plan a number of academic papers for review by our academic peers on the topic. That's when we'll know the final results, so stay tuned!
Our neuropsychologist colleague Dr. Farias has been working on an intervention for older adults who do NOT currently have objective evidence of memory impairment or MCI. Their Brain Boosters program aims to help older adults engage in healthy behaviors expected to impact brain health, specifically physical exercise, cognitive exercise, and stress management. They also teach organization behaviors, including use of a calendar, and have begun including the memory support system tool utilized in the HABIT program in their brain boosters program. They found that they were able to increase these health behaviors in those who participated in their program (they exercised more cognitively and physically and engaged in stress management techniques more) and utilizing the organizational structure of the memory support system helped with adhering to those behavioral plans. The older adults in their study showed improved functioning at the end, which is remarkable given that these individuals were all functioning well to start!
Dr. Farias and I have been applying for grant funding to collaborate on a pilot study of her Brain Boosters program with some features of HABIT at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. I continue to collaborate with Dr. Shandera-Ochsner, Director of HABIT in Minnesota, and Dr. Chandler, Director of HABIT in Florida, and we are all interested in this possibility that we can bring a HABIT-like program to older adults without cognitive impairment but who may be worried about cognitive health and interested in what they can do to protect their health. A HABIT program for healthy-aging if you will!