What Makes A Caregiver Program Effective?
Programs that have been demonstrated to help caregivers under “real world conditions” are said to be effective. Generally, this means taking a program that has been rigorously tested under controlled conditions and implementing it successfully in a community agency. If the program as adopted demonstrates the ability to improve caregiver knowledge, skills, morale and health, and/or reduce depression, injury, ill-health and social isolation when provided in the community to caregivers, it is said to be “effective”. Effectiveness, then, is the ultimate measure of whether a program “works” to help caregivers. Even the best evidence-based program may not be effective if it is poorly implemented, if staff are not properly trained, if the program varies too much from the original design and so on.
Effective programs appear to share several characteristics. Specifically, the following factors have been associated with the most positive outcomes for family caregivers. These factors should be carefully studied and built into efforts to support family caregivers:
- Contact with a helper over time, (NINR, 2001; Teri, 1999; Thompson & Gallagher-Thompson, 1996.)
- Contact with a helper who has specific intervention protocols to follow (Schulz, 2000; Schulz, Gallagher-Thompson, Haley, & Czaja, 2000)
- Interventions and care plans tailored to the caregiver’s specific needs(Chwalisz, 1996, Mittelman, Roth, Coon, and Haley, 2004; Schulz, Gallagher-Thompson, Haley, & Czaja, 2000),
- Multi-component interventions that include a combination of knowledge, skill building, problem solving and counseling (Carnevale, Anselmi, Busichio, & Millis, 2002; Grant, Elliott, Giger, & Bartolucci, 2001; Paun, Farran, Perraud, & Loukissa, 2004; Query & Wright, 2003; Schulz, Martire & Klinger, 2005).
- Interventions with higher intensity (e.g. greater frequency and duration) (Schulz et. al. 2005)
- Using a combination of home-visiting, telephone follow-up, internet and telehealth technology to deliver, (Davis, Burgio, Buckwalter, & Weaver, 2004; Eisdorfer et al., 2003; Mahoney, Tarlow, & Jones, 2003; NINR, 2001) and,
- Programs developed and implemented locally and involving agency collaboration (Falicreek, 2003; Tremethick et. al. 2004; Wilken, Tremethick, Walker, & Meier, 1999).
Evidence-based interventions are those that have a documented record of positive outcomes for caregivers. Not all evidence based interventions are effective in practice because of poor implementation, poor staff training, and other factors. Read more about evidence-based interventions.
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