Assistant Professor Noelle Fields Receives NIH Grant

Thursday, Dec 20, 2018

UTA School of Social Work Assistant Professor Noelle Fields received a $96,074 National Institutes of Health grant to improve the ways in which families manage Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia with their loved ones.

Fields is a collaborator on a project titled “Utilizing Senior Companions to Enhance Dementia Care Services and Supports” and will be working with principal investigator Dr. Joseph Gaugler at the University of Minnesota, where the NIH grant was funded.

“The increasing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias along with the long-term progression of the disease poses significant challenges to the healthcare system in the U.S. and the majority of care for persons with dementia is provided from family members or other unpaid caregivers, typically at home rather than in institutional/nursing home settings,” Fields said. “There is a critical need to provide community-based support and services to family caregivers who are caring for persons with dementia.”

The aim of Fields’ research is to utilize Senior Companions and provide dementia-specific training to recognize symptoms of the disease, initiate conversations with family members, identify appropriate community-based services and support, and to provide families or persons with memory concerns/dementia the tools to facilitate effective interactions with healthcare professionals such as primary care providers.

“The hope is that the use of a volunteer/lay provider, community-based outreach effort to persons with Alzheimer’s disease/dementia and their family caregivers will offer a cost-effective and sustainable intervention model for managing dementia and the caregiving of persons with dementia,” Fields said.

According to Fields, there is a lack of translational research for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and their family caregiving in community settings, due in part to the costs of training interventionists.

“The potential to reach underserved persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia is another innovative aspect of this project, as Senior Companions often serve individuals from diverse racial/ethnic, income, and geographic backgrounds,” Fields said.

Fields is working with a team of collaborators for this interdisciplinary research that will take place in Minnesota.

“I am part of an interdisciplinary team led by the principal investigator, Dr. Joseph Gaugler, who is an internationally known expert in family caregiving, community-based long-term care, and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia,” Fields said. “He has brought together a team with unique skills and background in aging research for this project.”

Fields’ impact with her research and this grant highlight the efforts UTA School of Social Work faculty are making toward building sustainable urban communities and improving the health and the human condition, two of the tenets of UTA’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

 “This award will help me progress in my research related to designing, implementing, and evaluating cost effective interventions for dementia family caregivers,” Fields said. “My experiences with this award will also help highlight the role and value of social work research in interdisciplinary studies.”