Dementia is a global public health issue with an urgent need for developing newer and more effective treatment strategies. Research in the area of dementia, however, poses unique ethical and legal challenges. Epidemiological studies, studies on pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions have to deal with obtaining consent from persons with cognitive impairments, those from diverse cultural groups and need to contend with privacy and confidentiality issues. The caregiver support intervention research has not yet translated into policy change and effective clinical care. Biomedical research that involves invasive procedures may not translate into short- or long-term therapeutic benefits but is necessary research. Palliative care research in dementia has to deal with ethical issues involving people at end-of-life research. Proposed research may not receive approval, citing necessary safeguards to the vulnerable older people against invasive studies even when it is least invasive. This article aims to review the ethical aspects for safeguarding vulnerable older people with dementia and the potential challenges in conducting dementia research from a researcher's perspective. Some of the safeguards for ethical research include determining capacity to consent, obtaining advanced directives in early stages and proxy consent from caregivers, obtaining informed consent in cognitively impaired individuals. Future research policies need to consider the logistics of involving older people in research, enhancing caregiver support, and encouraging supportive decision-making. It will also need to address developing capacity assessment tools while addressing advanced care planning that will ensure the well-being of subjects in research.
Background: Dementia has become a global public health issue, with hospitalization rates being 65% higher in seniors with dementia than others.1,2 The pressures on healthcare systems mean an urgent need to develop robust preventive and treatment strategies for dementia, which requires multidisciplinary research. However, the patient's stage of illness and ability to engage in discussions around the merits of participating in research and caregiver concerns is an important aspect of dementia research.Hence, dementia research poses unique ethical challenges compared to populations with other diseases, which has led to the evolution of an ethical framework for dementia research. This article aims to review and give a viewpoint on the ethical aspects for safeguarding vulnerable older people with dementia and the potential challenges in conducting dementia research from a researcher's perspective.
Keywords: Dementia; Ethics; Geriatric; Research.
© 2021 Indian Psychiatric Society - South Zonal Branch.