Dementia Care Services Program Lessens Caregiver Stress, Leads to Cost Savings

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

School of Medicine & Health Sciences


Grand Forks, N.D. — Approximately 19,000 North Dakotans have Alzheimer's disease, and about 70 percent of those with the disease live at home. In North Dakota, 28,000 people—usually a family member or friend—identify as an unpaid caregiver of someone with dementia. These unpaid caregivers provide an estimated $400 million of unreimbursed healthcare to those with dementia. The Alzheimer's Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter has an innovative approach to supporting caregivers of people with dementia, which has led to a cost savings in healthcare.

The Dementia Care Services Program, funded by the North Dakota Department of Human Services and facilitated by the Alzheimer's Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter, provides caregivers with counseling, peer support, and help in locating services for their loved ones with dementia. The program is unique in that the services are provided in rural and urban areas—no matter where a caregiver lives the service comes to them. The significance of the program gained international recognition through a recently published article in Health Affairs, the leading journal of research on the crossroads of health, healthcare, and policy.

The program's success indicates that the support services provided to unpaid caregivers have translated into patients being able to stay at home longer, which in turn is a cost savings. "The Dementia Care Services Program was showing a decrease in caregivers' stress levels within a year of its implementation," said Marilyn G. Klug, research director at the University of North Dakota's Center for Rural Health, and lead author of the Health Affairs article. "All of the program's work translated into potential cost savings. Most importantly, the program provided the caregiver someone to talk to and to work with the specific needs of a person with dementia or Alzheimer's. Whether the caregiver lives in downtown Fargo or rural Bowman County, the Dementia Care Services Program provides that human touch that helps it succeed."

The article regarding the Dementia Care Services Program appears in the April issue of Health Affairs. Authors were Marilyn G. Klug, Ph.D., University of North Dakota Center for Rural Health; Gwen Wagstrom Halaas, M.D., M.B.A., senior associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs, University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences; and Mandi-Leigh Peterson, M.A., research specialist, University of North Dakota Center for Rural Health. To read the full article, please visit