Distance Education and Caregiver Support Groups: Comparison of Traditional and Telephone Groups

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Objective:To implement and evaluate the impact of telephone caregiver groups, compared with traditional face-to-face, on-site caregiver groups.Design:Quasi-experimental design comparing the two group types across time.Setting:An urban tertiary rehabilitation hospital with a brain injury program servicing a vast geographical area.Participants:Caregivers of an adult person with a brain injury participated in either one of the 10 telephone groups (TGs) (N = 52 caregivers who completed a full set of research forms) or one of the 10 on-site groups (OGs) (N = 39 caregivers who completed a full set of research forms). The combined total from both groups was 91.Intervention:Caregivers who lived within 40 km of the facility were placed in one of the OGs, and all others were placed in one of the TGs. Both types of groups met weekly for 9–10 weeks and were led by either social work or psychology professionals. The TGs met using teleconference technology.Main outcome measures:Profile of Moods States (POMS), Caregiver Burden Inventory (CBI), and the McMaster Model Family Assessment Devise (FAD), were administered 2 months before the first day of group, on the first day of group, on the last day of group, and 6 months after group. On the last day of group, a participant satisfaction survey was administered.Results:There were similar amounts of improvements for the outcomes from OGs and TGs. Rural caregivers had fewer difficulties on all measures at all measurement intervals. In both types of group, participants showed a statistically significant improvement in POMS scores and a trend toward improvement in FAD and CBI results. Participants of both group types rated their experience highly, although rural caregivers were somewhat more satisfied.Conclusions:Telephone groups offer a method of providing support and education to rural caregivers that is as effective as traditional inperson OGs.

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