Taking care of the caregivers

Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2005 Nov;18(6):633-9. doi: 10.1097/01.yco.0000184416.21458.40.


Purpose of review: Comprehensive treatment for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities should include interventions for their family caregivers. In order for such interventions to achieve widespread implementation, they must first be proven efficacious in randomized controlled trials. The present review briefly summarizes the recent literature on the results of randomized controlled trials and pilot studies of psychosocial interventions for caregivers.

Recent findings: Many of the recent studies of psychosocial interventions for caregivers have resulted in significant outcomes, regardless of the chronic illness of the relative or friend for whom care is being provided. While didactic interventions can provide knowledge, supportive interventions generally have more impact on caregiver and patient emotional and psychological well-being. Pilot studies suggest that new modes of intervention, such as telephone-based and web-based counseling and support, show promise and appear to be feasible. Psychosocial interventions for caregivers that are individualized and flexible, and provide long-term support appear to be the most efficacious.

Summary: The literature on caregiver intervention studies, conducted in research centers, suggests that treating the caregiver may be an important component of a comprehensive treatment for chronic diseases and disabilities. Interventions with demonstrated efficacy should now be tested more widely in community settings in multiple geographic settings, ethnic groups, disease entities and caregiver types, to more fully evaluate their generalizability and effectiveness.