Evidence Summary

What is an Evidence Summary?

Key messages from scientific research that's ready to be acted on

Got It, Hide this
  • Rating:

Specialist nurses are no more effective than conventional services at increasing dementia caregiver satisfaction or reducing their depression

Bunn F, Goodman C, Pinkney E, et al.  Specialist nursing and community support for the carers of people with dementia living at home: An evidence synthesis  Health and Social Care in the Community. 2015; doi: 10.1111/hsc.12189

Review question

What services can specialist nurses provide to support family caregivers of people with dementia, and are these services effective at improving the health and satisfaction of caregivers?


The number of patients with dementia will increase significantly in coming decades, and many of these patients will live in their own home and be cared for by informal caregivers, such as a spouse or other family members.

Caring for a person with dementia may have a significant impact on the health and well-being of family caregivers, notably by putting them at increased risk for depression.

Community-care interventions delivered by specialist nurses known as “Admiral Nurses” in the U.K. are a promising means of providing support to informal caregivers.  

How the review was done

A number of electronic databases were searched for studies published prior to November 2012, with those focused on services provided by specialist Admiral Nurses included alongside studies focusing on the effectiveness of community-care interventions designed to support family caregivers of people with dementia.

A total of 3533 unique studies were identified in searches, and after screening for eligibility, 33 studies focused on specialist Admiral Nurses were included alongside 11 studies identifying the effectiveness of interventions designed to provide caregiver support.

This review was funded by Dementia UK.

What the researchers found

Services provided by Admiral Nurses included assessing caregiver needs, providing therapeutic interventions, and offering information, skills training and education.

There was no evidence that specialist Admiral Nurses improved caregiver health or satisfaction compared to conventional dementia support services, although both types of services appeared to lower distress in caregivers.

The evidence that psychosocial and educational interventions could reduce depression in caregivers was weak. However, caregivers were often reported to express high levels of satisfaction with community-based interventions.


There is no evidence that specialist nurses are more effective than conventional dementia support services for reducing distress among dementia caregivers. Community support programs, regardless of who delivers them, may increase caregiver satisfaction, but there was only weak evidence that it could reduce depression in caregivers. Further research should focus on identifying what specialist dementia nurses should reasonably achieve at different stages of the dementia journey, and which aspects of their role are most effective.




Related Web Resources

  • 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.
  • Safeguarding adults
    Know the signs of abuse: frequent arguments with a caregiver, changes in personality, unexplained injuries, bruising, unusual weight loss or unsafe living conditions. Ask doctors, social workers or community nurses for support if you or someone you know might be abused. Contact the police if someone you know is in physical danger.
  • Alzheimer's and memories: Use mementos as cues

    Mayo Clinic
    Help preserve memories for someone with Alzheimer’s. Create an electronic folder or special box with photos and letters. Talk together or with people who know her/him to hear and document meaningful stories.
DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Register for free access to all Professional content