Examination of a psychoeducational intervention and a respite grant in relieving psychosocial stressors associated with being an Alzheimer’s caregiver

Author(s): Tompkins, S.A. and Bell, P.A.

Published In: Journal of Geronotological Social Work, 52: 89-104

Study Aim/Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine whether and how receipt of a psychoeducational training program called the Savvy Caregiver Program (SCP), receipt of a respite voucher-type grant, and receipt of a combination of both services impacted caregivers and their use of other support services beyond the intervention. Both types of interventions were conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter. 

Summary of Methods: This pre/post multi-group study was conducted with a total of 367 caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s or other dementias in three treatment groups: 127 in SCP, 197 receiving respite grant, and 43 participating in both, with 184 participants completing the initial and follow-up surveys. The initial information was collected as part of the routine client intake questionnaires and follow-up was conducted both immediately after the SCP training in the form of a questionnaire and telephone interviews were conducted at 6-months follow-up.

Summary of Results: With regard to caregiver outcomes, average depression scores decreased significantly from baseline to the 6-month follow-up interview, regardless of treatment group. Overall health was found to significantly improve as well with significant correlations found between overall health and average depression scores. The authors also found increased support service use and support group usage among participants in the respite grant group and the group that participated in both SCP and the respite grant program. Participants in the combined treatment group showed positive findings for the three outcomes with no significant advantage over the SCP or respite grant group regarding depression scores or support group usage. Additionally, no significant associations were found between varying caregiver characteristics and the outcomes studied, with the exception of the finding that those living in urban areas had greater increases in support service usage than those living in rural areas. 

Study Limitations (as cited by authors): Limitations of this study cited include absence of random assignment to the treatment groups, absence of a control group, lack of ethnic diversity in the sample, and constraints in the format of the questions used at intake because they were questions required by the federal grant program funding these interventions. 

Authors’ Discussion/Conclusions: The authors highlight that participants in all treatment groups showed improved depression scores and increase in usage of support types of services. They state that the latter finding “is particularly noteworthy for the SCP group” and suggest that “contact with the Alzheimer’s Association and other caregivers in a similar situation was enough to bring about increased usage of support services.”