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The aim of the present study was to conduct an extended meta-analysis of the efficacy and acceptance of supportive interventions for alleviating depressive symptoms in family caregivers of elderly relatives with a mental disorder, including dementia. The second aim was to analyze intervention characteristics as potential moderators of the efficacy and acceptance of these interventions.
We searched electronic databases for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published between 2005 and 2014. Thirty-three studies were included in the meta-analysis with a total of 5,980 participants.
No RCTs that tested interventions for caregivers of elderly patients with mental disorders other than dementia were found. The weighted pooled effect size of the interventions for caregivers of dementia patients was positive but small (standardized mean difference = 0.13; CI0.95 [0.03; 0.23], p = 0.01). Meta-regression analysis revealed higher effect sizes for interventions that were individually customized. Intervention discontinuation rates were low (mean 11%, SD = 6.3) and independent of most intervention characteristics. If the intervention was delivered via telecommunication intervention discontinuation rates tended to be higher (r = −0.39, p = 0.07).
Comparative research for caregivers of elderly patients with mental disorders other than dementia is lacking. RCTs of interventions for family caregivers of dementia patients of the last decade show good acceptance among intervention participants, but there is still a need to improve the efficacy of these interventions. Individual customization of intervention components might enhance efficacy. More research is needed on the acceptance of telecommunication interventions for family caregivers.
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