Objective: To test the hypothesis that a problem-solving training program would lower depression, health complaints, and burden, and increase well-being reported by community-residing family caregivers of persons with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Setting: General community.
Participants: Of the 180 people who expressed interest in the study, 113 did not meet eligibility criteria. A consenting sample of family caregivers were randomized into a problem-solving training group (4 men, 29 women; average age, 51.3y) or an education-only control group (34 women; average age, 50.8y). Care recipients included 26 men and 7 women in the intervention group (average age, 36.5y) and 24 men and 10 women in the control group (average age, 37.2y).
Intervention: Problem-solving training based on the D'Zurilla and Nezu social problem-solving model was provided to caregivers in the intervention group in 4 in-home sessions and 8 telephone follow-up calls over the course of their year-long participation. Control group participants received written educational materials and telephone calls at set intervals throughout their 12 months of participation.
Main outcome measures: Caregiver depression, health complaints, well-being, and social problem-solving abilities.
Results: Hierarchical linear models revealed caregivers receiving problem-solving training reported significant decreases in depression, health complaints, and in dysfunctional problem-solving styles over time. No effects were observed on caregiver well-being, burden, or constructive problem-solving styles.
Conclusions: Problem-solving training provided in the home appears to be effective in alleviating distress and in decreasing dysfunctional problem-solving styles among family caregivers of persons with TBI. Methodologic limitations and the implications for interventions and future research are discussed.