Research Article

Effect of a training programme to reduce stress in carers of patients with dementia.

BMJ 1989; 299 doi: (Published 02 December 1989) Cite this as: BMJ 1989;299:1375
  1. H. Brodaty,
  2. M. Gresham
  1. Memory Disorders Clinic, Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney, Australia.


    OBJECTIVE--To reduce the psychological stress and improve the skills in coping of people who care for relatives with dementia. DESIGN--Assessment and suitability of carers by questionnaire; assessment of patients and carers in a hospital outpatient clinic; allocation to groups according to date of application to study. Linkage of groups of four carers and programme coordinator by telephone conference calls over 12 months after programmes. Reassessment at three, six, 12, and, for those in the "wait list" group, 18 months. SETTING--The programmes were conducted in the psychiatry unit of a Sydney teaching hospital. SUBJECTS--Eligible patients were less than 80 years old, had mild to moderate dementia, and lived at home with their carer. Of the 96 patient-carer pairs in the study, 33 were in the dementia carers' programme group, 31 were in the memory retraining group, and 32 were in the wait list group. INTERVENTIONS--Carers in the dementia carers' programme received training in coping with the difficulties of looking after patients with dementia while the patients had sessions in subjects such as memory retraining. In the memory retraining programme patients were admitted and received the patient component of the carers' programme while their carers had 10 days' respite. In the wait list group carers waited six months before undertaking the carers' programme. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Effect of the programmes on carers' general health questionnaire scores and the rate of placement of patients in institutions. RESULTS--At 12 months' follow up the carers' programme had resulted in significantly lower psychological stress among carers than the memory retraining programme (mean (SD) general health questionnaire scores at 0 months were 6.31 (6.23) and 3.60 (6.25) respectively, and at 12 months were 4.69 (5.58) and 7.40 (9.39); p less than 0.05.) In the wait list group distress scores remained stable, even after the carers and patients had undertaken the carers' programme. Patients deteriorated over 12 months regardless of group allocation, but at 30 months, allowing for patients who died and could not be included in the analysis, 65% of patients in the carers' programme group were still living at home compared with 26% in the memory retraining programme group. CONCLUSION--The intensive intervention programme described for carers of patients with dementia can reduce the psychological morbidity of the carer and delay the placement of the patient in an institution without increasing the use of health services by either patient or carer.