Objective: Social support interventions for caregivers of persons with dementia (PwD) are important because informal carers often rely on their social networks for support. This systematic review synthesises findings from research on social support interventions, and examines their methodological quality and effectiveness on caregiver social support and well-being variables.
Methods: A systematic literature search utilised five databases. Papers were selected when the primary aim of the intervention was to improve social support. Quality of papers was assessed by the Level of Evidence grade and the criteria list from the Cochrane Back Review Group.
Results: 39 papers were identified and classified into 4 social support intervention categories: befriending and peer support, family support and social network interventions, support groups, and remote interventions using the internet or telephone. Content, intensity, uptake, effectiveness and quality of interventions varied widely. In general, the level of evidence was low. Most studies measured effect on well-being variables, while few examined social support outcomes. Multi-component social support interventions were most effective. Evidence suggested, also a caregiver benefit from remote interventions. Generally, results were inconsistent; some papers demonstrated beneficial results, while others demonstrated no improvement on social support and well-being variables. Social support outcomes were more positively evaluated when qualitative outcome measures rather than quantitative measures were used.
Conclusions: Although multi-component social support interventionsmay improve caregiver well-being, there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether a change in social support is the underlying mediating factor. The inclusion, validation and operationalization of caregiver social support measures deserve more attention.