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Evidence Summary

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Internet-based support can benefit caregivers of individuals with dementia

Boots LM, de Vugt ME, van Knippenberg, et al. A systematic review of Internet-based supportive interventions for caregivers of patients with dementia Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014;29(4):331-44.

Review question

Are internet-based supportive interventions effective for informal caregivers of individuals with dementia? What types of interventions are most effective and are they easy to apply?

Background

There are about 36 million people living with dementia worldwide, and this number is growing. Most people living with dementia are cared for by informal caregivers, such as their spouse or other family members. Caring for individuals with dementia can be challenging and caregivers often suffer from physical and emotional problems. Finding helpful ways to support caregivers can decrease the burden on these individuals as well as the healthcare system.

How the review was done

This is a summary of a systematic review of 12 studies measuring the effects of Internet-based support for informal caregivers. The researchers compared the methods, participants, setting, types of internet support, and the results of each study.  All interventions included as a base component a website with information for caregivers. Additional components included caregiving strategies posted on the website; telephone or email support, and a mechanism that encouraged caregivers to interact with each other online.

What the researchers found

Six of 12 studies showed small, statistically significant effects of the internet-based supportive interventions, improving caregiver confidence in making decisions, competence, self-efficacy, and depression.

Internet support did not improve caregivers’ quality of life, coping skills, stress management and social isolation and health status.  Approaches that combined information, tailored caregiver strategies, and promoted contact with other caregivers were more likely to improve caregiver well-being than those that only provided information to the caregivers. Most studies did not indicate how much time participants spent visiting the websites (or were expected to).

Conclusion

Internet interventions appear to be a promising addition to the existing support for informal caregivers of dementia patients. However, there is not enough evidence at this time to conclude how effective they are, or recommend the most promising types of interventions.  

 




Glossary

Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Web Resources

  • Dementia: topic overview

    Health Link B.C.
    Some types of dementia can be treated (eg. if caused by a brain tumour, medication interactions or infections). For most people, dementia cannot be reversed. This resource includes answers to frequently asked questions about dementia.
  • Dementia: When to call a doctor

    Health Link B.C.
    Forgetfulness is a normal part of aging. Learn the warning signs of dementia (in this resource) to report to a doctor. Contact a doctor right away if a person becomes suddenly confused, upset, or lost.
  • Dementia in home and community care

    Canadian Institute for Health Information
    Adults with dementia that live at home have complicated care needs. This resource provides information about caregiving for a person with dementia, and about how to transition into long-term care.
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