Dementia caregivers' perspectives regarding the effectiveness of support group involvement

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Katherine Elizabeth Scott (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
K. Leigh Morrow-Odom

Abstract: Caregiver burden can be defined as the stress experienced by someone caring for another individual with an illness or disorder, and it is influenced by time-dependence, degenerative stage, physical obstacles, social isolation, and emotional strain (Chu et al., 2010). Additional influences include emotional-behavioral problems, required levels of assistance for activities of daily living, level of mobility, and medical assistance (Leggett, Zarit, Taylor, & Galvin, 2010). Data regarding the efficacy of caregiver support groups to improve the health and well-being of caregivers are beginning to emerge. Song and colleagues (2010) suggested that persons involved in a caregiver support group reported greater feelings of support on social network and social support scales than those in the control group that had not been involved in social support. Similarly, Chu et al. (2010) explored the effectiveness of a support group for caregivers of persons with dementia in relieving symptoms of depression and reducing caregiver burden. The data suggested that the caregiver support group reduced depression, attributing this to the realization that feelings experienced are shared by others. However, reductions in caregiver burden as a result of being involved in a support group were not observed. The purpose of this study is to better understand why support group involvement has a lesser impact on caregiver burden compared to caregiver depression. Utilizing an online survey, the researcher identified trends related to group dynamics and information provided that may shed light on this discrepancy with the ultimate goal of improving support group design and implementation. The survey, delivered electronically to support group facilitators and distributed to group members, elicited information regarding demographics, support group features, caregiver experience, dementia severity, caregiver burden, and caregiver depression. Due to the small response rate, the data obtained were discussed in terms of frequency counts and percentages for categorical data and median and range scores for scale data. Data suggested that as the frequency of meetings increased, the degree of caregiver burden decreased. Similarly, as the frequency of caregiver attendance at meetings increased, the degree of caregiver depression decreased. It was determined that depression was most influenced by education of caregivers during meetings. Burden was most influenced by provision of financial and physical/health information. The data suggest that providing caregivers with practical information to target specific challenges they face may have the greatest influence on reducing caregiver burden. Training facilitators to provide group members with such information is imperative to making the support group effective. Learning more about how to utilize the caregiver support group for this purpose of reducing caregiver depression and burden is essential. Research should continue and knowledge of best practice shared so that support group implementation can become evidence-based.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Alzheimers, Caregiver, Support Group
Caregivers -- United States -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies
Caregivers -- United States -- Attitudes -- Case studies
Self-help groups -- United States -- Psychological aspects -- Case studies
Dementia -- Patients -- United States -- Care -- Case studies
Dementia -- Patients -- United States -- Psychological aspect -- Case studies

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