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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.
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?
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.
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.
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).
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.