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Nonpharmacological interventions can reduce depressive symptoms for caregivers of older adults with mild cognitive impairments

Domingues NS, Verreault P, Hudon C Reducing burden for caregivers of older adults with mild cognitive impairment: A systematic review American journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. 2018:1-14.

Review question

  • Are nonpharmacological interventions such as phone conversations, journaling and calendar training effective in reducing depressive symptoms for caregivers of older adults with mild cognitive impairments?


  • Mild cognitive impairments refer to the stage between the normal cognitive decline related to aging and the more serious decline of dementia. People experiencing mild cognitive impairments have problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment.
  • Caregivers of older adults living with mild cognitive impairments often experience depressive symptoms such as loss of energy, lack of motivation, and feelings of anxiety.
  • This systematic review examines the effectiveness of nonpharmacological interventions (meaning interventions that do not involve medication) in reducing caregiver burden and depressive symptoms.

How the review was done

  • A detailed search of seven electronic databases was conducted to find studies published from 1999 up to September 2017. Studies that focused on nonpharmacological interventions for caregivers of older adults with mild cognitive impairments were included in the review.
  • A total of 3,594 studies were identified in searches, and four were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.
  • The review was funded partly by a salary award from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé.  

What the researchers found

  • The review revealed that teaching caregivers to use calendars and to take notes significantly reduced depressive symptoms such as feelings of helplessness, irritability and loss of energy (and prevented worsening of the burden they perceived) up to six months after the interventions.
  • Being engaged in meaningful activities on a daily basis, combined with problem-solving therapy and the provision of education material, helped to reduce depressive symptoms up to three months after the interventions.
  • Interventions to educate caregivers and interventions using social conversation phone calls helped to decrease feelings of burden in caregivers up to three months after the interventions.


  • The review found that nonpharmacological interventions can support caregivers of older adults with mild cognitive impairments.


Cognitive impairment
Trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect everyday life.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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