Dementia poses a considerable socio-economic challenge on society. Family and other unpaid care predominates on a national scale. Supporting caregivers is important, but there is still a shortage of scalable approaches. As a rising number of studies have indicated that online training and support services are very attractive to scale up, we have reviewed current literature.
Researchers systematically searched 6 databases to identify studies of Internet-based interventions designed to train and support caregivers of people with dementia, and we formally assessed risk of bias. Their prespecified primary outcomes of interest included both mental health and caregiver burden/perceived stress. Their secondary outcomes of interest included knowledge, quality of life of caregivers, quality of care, caregiver response to challenging behaviors, coping, and self-efficacy.
Eight randomized control trials met our inclusion criteria involving over 900 participants. The content and structure of Internet-based interventions, outcome measures, and duration differed markedly, and selection, performance, and reporting biases were varied and on occasion of concern. Six studies reported outcomes in caregivers’ mental health outcomes, 3 studies reported burden outcomes. Three studies reported knowledge skills, quality of life and reaction to challenging behaviours, whereas 2 studies reported changes in coping outcomes and self-efficacy. No studies reported outcomes on quality of care.
Although there is some evidence that Internet-based interventions can improve mental health outcomes for informal caregivers of people with dementia, marked methodological diversity across studies prevented the robust pooling of the results. A concerted and cohesive approach from all stakeholders is now required to help realize the full potential of this emerging field.