Psychological Interventions for Dementia Caregivers: What We Have Achieved, What We Have Learned.

Affiliation

Department of Health and Physical Education, The Education University of Hong Kong, Tai Po, Hong Kong. [Email]

Abstract

With the rising dementia population, more and more programs have been developed to help caregivers deal with the care-recipient as well as their own frustrations. Many interventions aim to enhance caregiver's ability to manage behavior problems and other deteriorations in functioning, with less direct emphasis placed on caring for the caregivers. We argue that techniques based on psychotherapy are strategically important in assistance provided to caregivers because of their utility for promoting emotional health. This article provides a focused review of such methods used in evidence-based intervention programs, along with the mechanisms of change associated with these methods. While cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has a strong evidence base, there is also a growing trend to package CBT techniques into various psychoeducational programs. These programs, which we call psychoeducation with psychotherapeutic programs, have been consistently found to be effective in reducing caregiver distress and are suited for delivery in group format, even by paraprofessionals, to lower the cost of intervention. A recent trend is the effective use of technological aids (e.g., the internet) to deliver CBT and psychoeducation, reaching more caregivers. As for therapeutic mechanisms, the use of coping skills, reduced dysfunctional thoughts, and increased self-efficacy in controlling upsetting thoughts has received support in studies. We conclude that psychotherapeutic techniques are increasingly being used effectively and efficiently to assist caregivers, aided by successful adaptation for educational or technologically advanced means of delivery. More research on therapeutic mechanisms is needed to understand how the techniques work and how they can be further refined.

Keywords

Alzheimer’s disease,Caregiver interventions,Cross-cultural issues,Dementia,

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