Background: COVID-19 pandemic worsened vulnerability of patients with dementia (PWD). This new reality associated with government restriction and isolation worsened stress burden and psychological frailties in PWD caregivers.
Objective: To give tele-psychological support to caregivers and evaluate the effect of this intervention by quantifying stress burden and quality of life during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
Methods: 50 caregivers were divided into two groups: "Caregiver-focused group" (Cg) and "Patient-focused group" (Pg). Both groups received telephone contact every 2 weeks over a 28-week period, but the content of the call was different: in Cg, caregivers answered questions about the state of the PWD but also explored their own emotional state, stress burden, and quality of life. In Pg instead, telephone contacts were focused only on the PWD, and no evaluation regarding the caregiver mood or state of stress was made. Psychometric scales were administered to evaluate COVID-19 impact, stress burden, and quality of life.
Results: Considering the time of intervention, from baseline (W0) to W28, Zarit Burden Interview and Quality of Life-caregiver questionnaires remained unchanged in Cg as compared with baseline (p > 0.05), whereas they worsened significantly in Pg (p < 0.01), showing increased stress over time and decreased quality of life in this group. Moreover, Impact on Event Scale values improved over the weeks in Cg (p = 0.015), while they remained unchanged in Pg (p = 0.483).
Conclusion: Caregivers who received telephone support about their mood and stress burden did not worsen their psychological state during the time of intervention, as did instead those who did not get such support.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; Caregiver; people with dementia; quality of life; stress burden; tele-psychological support.