Caring for a friend or relative with dementia can be burdensome and stressful, and puts carers at increased risk of physical and psychological problems. A number of psychosocial interventions, some delivered by computer, have been developed to support carers. This review evaluates the outcomes of computer-mediated interventions.
PsychINFO, MEDLINE, and CINAHL Plus were searched for papers published between January 2000 and September 2012. Study quality was evaluated using a modified version of Downs and Black's (1998) checklist.
Fourteen empirical studies, evaluating a range of complex, multifaceted interventions, met inclusion criteria. The most commonly measured variables were carer burden/stress and depression. In general, higher quality studies found that interventions did have an effect on these variables. Two higher quality studies also found that anxiety was reduced following intervention. Most studies found that positive aspects of caring were increased through these interventions, as was carer self-efficacy. There were mixed results in relation to social support, and physical aspects of caring did not seem to be affected. Program impact measures indicated general acceptability of these interventions.
The findings support the provision of computer-mediated interventions for carers of people with dementia. Future studies would benefit from design improvements, such as articulating clearly defined aims, having a control group, having adequate statistical power, and measuring a greater range of factors important to carers themselves.