Improving Support Groups for Caregivers of People with Dementia

peer support group

Award Date: 2018

Project Lead(s): Sheila Bauer, CEO

Project Title: Improving Dementia Caregiver Support

What is the issue?

Caregiver support groups do not always have peer members — people who have experience caring for people with dementia. Mental health experts recognize that peer support improves caregivers’ quality of life and helps them cope better with the challenges of providing care.

What did we do?

We included peers and staff members who acted as facilitators in caregiver support groups. Overall, 100 older adults with cognitive impairment, 105 caregivers, and 20 clinicians participated in our project. We conducted surveys, focus group interviews, and individual interviews with caregivers and used our findings to develop specialized tools to improve the support groups. We also updated our facilitator manual, implemented a new supervision process for facilitators, and identified the need to provide more training for facilitators.

What did we find?

Including peers in support groups was extremely valuable for caregivers. Improved support group experiences made them feel less isolated and better able to cope with providing care to their loved ones. Increased confidence in caregivers will enable them to provide better care for people living with dementia. Adding a trained facilitator and improving support group processes ensured a more consistent and beneficial approach for caregivers.