Improved sleep for dementia patients and their caregivers at heart of Vincentian professor’s research
September 10, 2021
Improved sleep for dementia patients and their caregivers at heart of Vincentian professor’s research

VINCENTIAN ASSISTANT Professor of Nursing Dr Glenna Brewster has been awarded a grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the sum of $937,495 for five years to conduct research geared towards improving sleep for cognitive impairment, dementia patients and their caregivers.

The K23 Research Project grant awarded to Brewster, who is attached to the Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing,USA, will provide the necessary foundation to build a successful and independent program of research related to sleep, dementia, and caregiving.

According to the announcement made following the award, sleep disturbance in persons living with dementia and their caregivers is a signifi cant public health burden, which is associated with depressive symptoms and poorer quality of life.

“Dr. Brewster and her team will use design thinking, human-centered approaches to tailor a dyadic behavioural intervention for sleep disturbance for persons living with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their caregivers.: “Dyadic behavioural intervention” Brewster explained to SEARCHLIGHT, “will be a program where two persons, in this case the person living with cognitive impairment/dementia and the care partner, will work together to change their sleep behaviours by performing behaviours and following techniques taught in the program.”

The findings of the grant project will inform future larger- scale clinical trials and can provide a novel and innovative method for persons living with mild cognitive impairment or early-stage dementia and their caregivers to achieve better sleep and quality of life outcomes.

The announcement of the grant further states that, “The completion of this grant research project will enable Dr. Brewster to acquire foundational knowledge for conducting large-scale intervention trials and fulfil the need for effective dyadic interventions to treat sleep disturbance in person living with mild cognitive impairment/caregiver dyads. The interdisciplinary training plan and goals developed for this K23 grant award will fill a critical gap in her current skill set.”

Originally of Belle Vue/Park Hill, and now living in Georgia, USA, the Assistant Professor was contacted via email to elaborate on her intended research and explain that which is driving her towards completing it.

“I was initially interested in sleep because of its potential impact on mental health outcomes. I had not yet identified the population within which to examine this phenomena,” she responded.

“I had the opportunity to work with caregivers of persons living with dementia during my doctoral studies; I listened to their challenges with sleep, and read the literature about their risk for depression and dementia, and decided that this would be the population that I wanted to work with to improve their sleep with the goal of potentially decreasing their long term risk for these negative outcomes,” the Assistant Professor disclosed.

On a more personal note, her grandmother was diagnosed with vascular dementia after experiencing a stroke in 2017, and “From then on, it personalised and made me more passionate about working with, supporting, and wanting to improve the lives of families living with dementia,” she explained.

“For me to be awarded this grant and be able to do this research validates my hard work and sacrifice. It means that the time and effort invested in my education and academic journey has been worth it and I have the potential to make a positive impact on lives of families living with cognitive impairment and dementia,” the Assistant Professor added.

Brewster’s academic journey has been long. It began at the Park Hill Government School, continued at the Girls’ High School, and then the Community College before her migration to the United States of America a few years later. She graduated from the Broward Community College with an Associates of Science and an Associates of Arts in Nursing; both with highest honors. From there she passed her Registered Nursing State Board exams and worked for a year as a Registered Nurse.

She completed a Bachelor’s of Nursing at the University of South Florida (USF), graduating Summa Cum Laude, and then went on to obtain a Master’s of Arts in Gerontology in 2014, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science in 2015. She then did her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology.

She has received funding in the past through a National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence Patricia G Archbold Fellowship; the Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Emory; the Alzheimer’s Association; and the Center for the Study of Symptom Science, Metabolomics, & Multiple Chronic Conditions in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

When asked whether this new undertaking is daunting the academic reasoned, “I think fear accompanies starting any new venture or project, but I recently saw a quote on Facebook by David Joseph Schwartz, an American businessman, that stated, ‘Do what you fear and fear disappears’ so that is what I will be doing.’” She noted, “I am equally if not more excited about this research and to do this work because of its potential impact on improving the sleep and ultimately the lives of both persons living with cognitive impairment and dementia, and their caregivers.”