Francine Ducharme , Lise Lachance , Louise LÃÂ©vesque , Marie-Jeanne Kergoat , Steven H. Zarit
Background: Disclosure of a relative’s dementia diagnosis marks the family member’s official entry into the caregiver role, yet caregivers seldom receive support at this early stage in order to facilitate transition. This study (2008–2011) sought to evaluate whether positive effects observed at completion of a psycho-educational program persisted and whether any delayed effects emerged six months later.
Methods: French-speaking primary caregivers of relatives diagnosed with dementia in the past nine months were recruited at memory clinics in Quebec (Canada). The 97 participants were blindly assessed using standardized measures before randomization to the experimental or the control group and were evaluated at program completion and six months later on outcomes associated with a healthy role transition.
Results: Compared with controls, caregivers in the experimental group at both time points were better able to plan for the future care needs of their relative (p=0.05), made greater use of the coping strategy of reframing (p=0.05), experienced less psychological distress (p=0.05), had better knowledge of available services (those with low and moderate knowledge at baseline (p=0.001 and p=0.01, respectively) and tended to be more efficacious in their caregiver role (p=0.06). No persistent effect regarding preparedness or confidence in dealing with caregiving was observed, and no delayed effect was observed for stress-management coping strategies or informal support family conflicts.
Conclusions: Intervention at career onset is key to fostering a healthy caregiver role transition. Greater emphasis should be placed on developing skills concerning non-significant outcomes. This trial was not registered.