Effectiveness of psychosocial interventions on the psychological health and emotional well-being of family carers of people with dementia following residential care placement: a systematic review

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To identify, appraise and synthesize existing evidence regarding the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions on the psychological health and emotional well-being of family carers of people with dementia who have moved into residential care.


Many carers experience stress, guilt, grief and depression following placement of a relative with dementia into residential care. Psychosocial interventions to support family carers may help to improve psychological health and emotional well-being; however, evidence for such interventions delivered to family carers following placement has yet to be appraised and synthesized.

Inclusion criteria:

Participant criteria included any family carers of people with dementia who have moved into residential or nursing or long term care. Interventions were included if they were designed to improve the psychological health and emotional well-being of family carers post-placement. Comparators included no intervention, other non-pharmacological intervention or standard/usual care. Outcomes included carer burden, anxiety, stress, depression, guilt, grief and loss, quality of life, or satisfaction with care of the person with dementia.


Key databases (PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO) and trials registries (Cochrane, WHO Clinical Trials, UK Clinical Trials) were searched to identify both published and unpublished studies in English from 1990 to 2017. The recommended Joanna Briggs Institute approach to critical appraisal, study selection, data extraction and data synthesis was followed. Data from studies was pooled in statistical meta-analysis where possible, and presented in narrative and tabular form otherwise.


Four studies were eligible for inclusion. Two studies were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of individualized multicomponent interventions, and two were cluster RCTs of group multicomponent interventions. Interventions were mostly underpinned by stress appraisal and coping theories. Outcomes measured, measurement tools and length of follow-up varied between the studies. There was high risk of selection, attrition and detection bias.


A total of 302 family carers were included. For the individualized interventions, significant improvements were reported for carer guilt (F = 5.00; p = 0.03), role overload (F = 5.00; p = 0.04) and distress (F = 6.13; p = 0.02), but no significant effect was found for satisfaction with the residential care facility. Meta-analyses indicated there was no overall effect at three to four months post-intervention on carer burden (weighted mean difference 2.38; 95% CI −7.72 to 12.48), and depression (weighted mean difference 2.17; 95% CI −5.07 to 9.40). For the group interventions, no significant effects on carer distress were found; however, significant improvements in carer “heartfelt sadness” at three months post-baseline (F = 5.04; p = 0.027) and guilt at six months (F = 4.93; p = 0.029) were reported in one study.


Individualized multicomponent psychosocial interventions following residential care placement may be beneficial in improving family carers’ role overload, psychological distress and guilt. Group interventions may also improve feelings of guilt and sadness. There is insufficient evidence that individualized or group interventions improve carer depression, burden or satisfaction. However, due to substantial heterogeneity between studies and methodological flaws, the grade of this evidence is very low.


Further high quality RCTs that include different groups of carers are recommended. Comparative effects of individualized versus group interventions should be examined as these are likely to have cost implications.

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