Background: Dementia is an important health and social care problem and is one of the main causes of disability in later life. The number of families affected by dementia will dramatically increase over the next five decades. Despite the implications for health and social care services in the future, the overwhelming majority of care for people with dementia takes place away from health care settings. Providing informal care for someone with dementia can be psychologically, physically and financially expensive and a range of health service interventions aimed at supporting and providing information to these carers has developed to help carers meet these demands. This review examines whether information and support interventions improve the quality of life of people caring for someone with dementia.
Methods: A systematic review examining evidence from randomised controlled trials in which technology, individualised or group-based interventions built around the provision of support and/or information were evaluated.
Results: Forty-four studies were included in the review. Controlling for the quality of the evidence, we found statistically significant evidence that group-based supportive interventions impact positively on psychological morbidity. However, whilst the improvement was unlikely to be due to chance, the clinical significance of this finding should be interpreted tentatively, due to the difficulties in interpreting the standardised mean difference as a measure of effect and the complex aetiology of depression. No evidence was found for the effectiveness of any other form of intervention on a range of physical and psychological health outcomes.
Conclusion: There is little evidence that interventions aimed at supporting and/or providing information to carers of people with dementia are uniformly effective. There is a pressing need to ensure that supportive interventions at the development stage are accompanied by good quality randomised evaluations in which outcomes that are important to clinicians and carers are measured.