Effectiveness of Supporting Informal Caregivers of People with Dementia: A Systematic Review of Randomized and Non-Randomized Controlled Trials

Sophie Vandepitte, Nele Van Den Noortgate, Koen Putman, Sofie Verhaeghe, Kristof Faes, Lieven Annemans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Dementia is known as a major public health problem affecting both patients and caregivers, and placing a high financial strain upon society. In community-dwelling patients, it is important to support informal caregivers in order to help them sustain their demanding role. Previous reviews about effectiveness of such supporting strategies often included a small number of studies, focused only on particular supportive types, particular outcomes, or solely on caregivers.

OBJECTIVE: A general systematic review was conducted investigating effectiveness of different supportive strategies on at least the well-being of the caregiver or the care-recipient.

METHODS: A systematic literature search was conducted in Web of Science and PubMed. An adapted version of the Downs and Black (1998) checklist was used to assess methodological quality. A new classification was developed to group different types of caregiver support.

RESULTS: Fifty-three papers met the inclusion criteria. Although 87% of the interventions were to some extent effective, methods and findings were rather inconsistent. Psychoeducational interventions generally lead to positive outcomes for caregivers, and delay permanent institutionalization of care-recipients. Cognitive behavioral therapy decreases dysfunctional thoughts among caregivers. Occupational therapy decreases behavioral problems among patients and improves self-efficacy of caregivers. In general, those interventions tailored on individual level generate better outcomes. Comparative research on respite care was very rare.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite methodological inconsistency, supporting caregivers appears to be an effective strategy often improving well-being of caregiver or care-recipient and resulting in additional benefits for society. However, there is a need for more research on the (cost)-effectiveness of respite care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)929-965
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2016


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