Dr. Kathy Richards’ research focuses on improving sleep and related symptoms, such as nighttime agitation, and memory in older adults with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. She is currently principal investigator on R01AG51588 “Nighttime Agitation and Restless Legs Syndrome in People with Dementia” (NightRest) and a multiple principal investigator on R01AG054435 “Changing the Trajectory of Mild Cognitive Impairment with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure” (Memories 2). Both projects are funded by the National Institute on Aging. Please visit the NightRest Study and Memories 2 for more information about these projects.
Dr. Richards' experience in multi-disciplinary translational sleep and aging research spans more than 25 years and the results of her research are disseminated in more than 100 publications. She has conducted randomized controlled clinical trials of interventions, such as exercise and individualized social activity programs, resulting in large, clinically significant improvements in sleep and other debilitating symptoms in institutionalized and hospitalized older adults. She has developed and validated measures, including a measure of sleep quality for use in critically ill older adults that has been translated into 12 languages, and a restless leg syndrome diagnostic tool for use in persons with cognitive impairment. Dr. Richards has conducted studies that have illuminated relationships between sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome, and behavioral symptoms, such as wandering, in community-dwelling older adults with cognitive impairment. Her program of research has advanced the science regarding design of clinical trials to test the efficacy of tailored, patient-centered interventions. She has shown in the recent Memories 1 trial that adherence to continuous positive airway pressure, compared to a non-adherent control group, controlling for baseline differences between groups, significantly improves cognitive function over 1 year in older adults with comorbid mild cognitive impairment and obstructive sleep apnea.
She is the recipient of outstanding alumni awards from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
She and her husband, John Thomas, have 5 children and 6 grandchildren.