Purpose: Although it is widely recognized that caregivers of individuals with dementia experience elevated stress that places them at increased risk for health problems, little is known about how caregiving stress may be alleviated among underserved ethnic minority populations. The purpose of this study was to compare a complementary and alternative medicine therapy, polarity therapy (PT), to an enhanced respite control condition (ERC) to reduce stress and depression and improve quality of life for American Indian (AI) and Alaskan Native family caregivers.
Design and methods: Forty-two AI family caregivers of individuals with dementia, living on and off reservations in the Pacific Northwest, were randomized to an 8-session trial of PT or ERC. PT is a touch therapy that uses gentle pressure on energy points and biofields to help the client achieve physiological relaxation. ERC included respite care for the person with dementia and a choice of activities for the caregiver. Average age of caregivers was 50 years (range 27-69 years); 90% were women; 52% daughters, 10% wives, 7% sons, and 31% other relatives. Outcome assessments administered at baseline and posttreatment included caregiver perceived stress, depression, quality of life, sleep quality, worry, and physical health.
Results: PT participants improved significantly more than ERC participants on stress (p = .01), depression (p = .045.), bodily pain (p = .02), vitality (p = .03), and general health (p = .01).
Implications: These results indicate that the delivery of PT to AI dementia family caregivers is feasible and culturally acceptable and may be an important approach to reducing stress, depression, and pain.