Objective: To test the effect of a short-term psychosocial intervention programme for family carers of patients with dementia and identify characteristics of carers and patients that responded positively. Methods: The study was a multi-centre randomized controlled trial. Carers of 180 patients suffering from dementia recruited at 7 memory clinics at geriatric or psychiatric departments participated in the study. Carers of the intervention group were educated about dementia and in 6 group meetings taught how to use structured problem-solving. The control group received treatment as usual. The effect on patients was measured with the Neuropsychiatric Inventory and on carers with the Relatives’ Stress Scale (RSS). Results: The intention-to-treat efficacy analysis included 171 carer/patient dyads. The intervention did not have any effect on the primary outcome variables. The burden measured by the RSS increased in both groups; however, more carers of the control group converted from a low-burden group to a medium- or high-burden group after 4.5 months. In a subgroup analysis we found a statistically significant difference in the Neuropsychiatric Inventory score in favour of the intervention group among female patients. Conclusion: The predominately negative result of this study emphasizes the need of individually tailored interventions for carers and the use of narrow inclusion criteria when performing group-based interventions, such as the extent of burden as well as gender and kinship.
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