Do interventions that include education on dementia progression improve knowledge, mental health and burden of family carers? A systematic review

Dementia (London). 2020 Nov;19(8):2555-2581. doi: 10.1177/1471301219831530. Epub 2019 Feb 20.


Background and aim: The European Association of Palliative Care recommends that family carers need education on the progression of dementia. This systematic review aimed to explore whether interventions incorporating education regarding the progressive nature of dementia increased carers' understanding of dementia and improved mental health and burden.

Method: MEDLINE, PsycINFO and CINAHL were searched to April 2018. Randomised controlled trials with samples of family carers of someone with dementia were eligible. Included interventions involved a component aimed to increase the carer's understanding of the progression of dementia. Outcomes of interest included: knowledge of dementia, depression, burden and pre-death grief.

Results: Searches identified 3221 unique citations of which 11 studies were eligible for review. Interventions ranged from 4 to 16 sessions of which 1 to 3 sessions focused on the progression of dementia. Knowledge: Two studies evaluated carers' knowledge of dementia. One found no difference between the trial arms immediately after the intervention or three months later. The second found a significant intervention effect at the end of the intervention but not at three-month follow-up. Depression: Seven studies evaluated intervention effects on depression. Meta-analysis of three trials showed significant differences in mean follow-up scores favouring intervention over control. The remaining four studies did not show differences in depression between intervention and control groups. Burden: Nine studies evaluated burden and were examined in two meta-analyses (mean scores at follow-up and mean change scores from baseline to follow-up), neither of which found a benefit for intervention over control. Using the grading of recommendations assessment, development and evaluation system, we judged the quality of evidence to be very low for depression and low for burden, knowledge and pre-death grief, reducing our confidence in any of the effect estimates.

Conclusion: The evidence was not sufficient to support or refute the effectiveness of education on progression of dementia on carers' knowledge and mental health.

Keywords: burden; caregiver intervention; carer intervention; dementia progression; depression; education intervention; pre-death grief; systematic review.