As dementia caregivers, many of us had some external support systems in place before the Safer at Home mandate. With support groups, memory cafes, senior centers and adult day centers closed, we are struggling to find replacements. Adapting to a new in-home routine has its challenges. Limited outdoor spaces for exercise, and increased isolation has added a new dimension to our dementia caregiving. Many are adapting to technology in order to seek support and guidance.
But how effective is internet-based interventions?
Research looking at psychological interventions for dementia caregivers identified four types of caregiver intervention:
- Counseling and psychotherapy
- Multicomponent programs
- Mindfulness-based interventions
In all four types, researchers concluded that they were efficient and effective when aided by technology-adaptation for delivery.1 This is validation that even in a pandemic, we as caregivers can access effective tools to manage the tough changes dementia brings.
Research looking at delivery method found that internet-based interventions were effective in addressing family caregiver well-being, in particular depression, anxiety, and burden.2 Online psychological interventions showed improvements in caregiver mental health. This was particularly so when it was tailored to the individual and used in a multicomponent intervention. Online peer support was appreciated by participants and had positive effects on stress.
In fact, a metanalysis of internet-based interventions’ effectiveness in overall chronic care showed positive outcomes in caregiver depression, stress, distress and anxiety.3 These positive effects were particularly evident in interventions with information and education (with or without professional psychological support) with a lesser impact from peer and psychological support.
Once again education and seeking help shine as primary aids to our resilience as effective care partners.
As we dealing with a limited daily routine, a good strategy would be to include technology as a mainstay for navigating our stress, seeking support and staying informed. Include virtual support groups, virtual memory cafes, and educational webinars as keystones of your week, for both your loved one’s mental health and your own.
1Spenser, L., Potterton, R., Allen, K., Musiat, P., & Schmidt, U. (2019). Internet-based interventions for carers of individuals with psychiatric disorders, neurological disorders, or brain injuries: Systematic review, Jul 9;21(7): e10876, doi: 10.2196/10876.
2Sherifali, D., Ali, M.U., Ploeg, J, Markle-Reid, M., Valaitis, R., et al., (2018). Impact of internet-based interventions on caregiver mental health: Systematic review and meta-analysis, Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(7): e10668. Published online 2018 Jul 3. doi: 10.2196/10668.