Background: Family caregivers of people with dementia often experience negative impacts including stress and burden. Psychoeducational programs can reduce these negative outcomes.
Objective: To evaluate whether this virtual caregiver education program changes caregiver confidence, self-efficacy, and burden relative to controls.
Methods: This was a pre-post comparison of a five-week, synchronous, virtual caregiver education program delivered by a clinician and caregiver support specialist covering aspects of dementia, including changes in cognition, behavior, functional abilities, caregiver-care recipient roles, communication, and caregiver self-care. Caregivers (n = 90) were surveyed at baseline, at completion of intervention, and three months thereafter; controls (n = 44) were surveyed at two points six weeks apart. We compared validated measures of caregiver confidence, self-efficacy, and burden using generalized estimating equations.
Results: Participants' confidence and self-efficacy increased over follow-up compared with controls (p < 0.01 for intervention*time in regression models). There was no difference in burden. All participants (100%) reported perceived increased knowledge, 97% perceived increased confidence, and 95% perceived increased ability to manage dementia-related behaviors after the course.
Conclusion: This virtual caregiver education program was effective in improving caregiver confidence and self-efficacy and participants' self-reported impact was equivalent to those who had taken previous courses in person. Caregivers with greater confidence and self-efficacy have been shown to have better health outcomes and decreased stress and depressive symptoms. Health professionals, health care organizations, and public health agencies should consider using efficacious virtual caregiver education programs in rural and other community settings, during public health crises, or in standard practice as an alternative to in-person programs.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; caregiver education; dementia; health education; internet-based intervention; program evaluation; rural population; self efficacy; self-concept.