Objective: This study reviews the evidence for effects of combined intervention programmes for both the informal caregiver and the person with dementia.
Method: Systematic review. Electronic databases and key articles were searched for effect studies of combined programmes, published between January 1992 and February 2005. The resulting 52 reports were scored according to set inclusion criteria.
Results: Twenty five reports relating to 22 programmes met the inclusion criteria. Various aspects of caregivers' mental health and burden were studied. Best results were obtained regarding general mental health. Other aspects often showed modest and varying results. Caregivers' competence was less often addressed. The effects on the cognitive and physical functioning, behavioural problems and survival of the persons with dementia were modest and inconsistent, whereas their mental health is positively affected and admittance to long stay care is often delayed.
Conclusion: Combined programmes may improve some, not all, aspects of functioning for caregiver and person with dementia. Care professionals must define their programme goals and target groups before advising their clients on a combined programme. Research may focus on the effects of programmes that were introduced fairly recently and on subgroups of caregivers (female caregivers, depressed caregivers and people with dementia, and minorities).