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Helping caregivers of persons with dementia: which interventions work and how large are their effects?

 The present paper extends our previous meta-analysis by including 127 studies with dementia caregivers. We ask, first, which average effects of interventions are found on caregiver burden, depression, indicators of positive subjective well-being (SWB), ability/knowledge of caregivers, symptoms of CRs, and the risk of institutionalization. Second, we compare effects of different forms of interventions, such as caregiver education, general support, and respite. Third, we analyze the impact of study characteristics on the intervention effects, such as group-based versus individualized interventions.

Study concluded with several conclusions:

  • First, that interventions with caregivers for patients with dementia have, on average, small but meaningful effects on reducing burden and depressive symptoms, and increasing ability/knowledge and SWB, and, for a subset of interventions, reducing the risk for institutionalization.
  • Second, because multicomponent interventions had only few effects, future research is needed regarding how the complexity of interventions relates to treatment effects and which combination would have the largest effects.
  • Third, in order to assess long-term consequences of interventions, we need follow-ups over longer time intervals.
  • Fourth, more long-term follow-up measures are needed on positive aspects and outcomes of caregiving, for example on SWB and finding benefits in the caregiving role.
  •  Fifth, studies are recommended about individual differences in caregivers’ response to particular intervention strategies, for example depending on specific stressors, resources, expectations, or personality traits.
  • Finally, studies on mediators of intervention effects are needed.


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