Development and Implementation of Tele-Savvy for Dementia Caregivers: A Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Demonstration Project

Patricia C Griffiths, M Kate Whitney, Mariya Kovaleva, Kenneth Hepburn
Gerontologist 2016, 56 (1): 145-54

PURPOSE OF THE STUDY: To test fidelity and preliminary efficacy of Tele-Savvy, an internet-based version of the in-person, evidence-based psychoeducation Savvy Caregiver Program (SCP) for dementia caregivers. Tele-Savvy used synchronous (tele-conferences) and asynchronous components (video modules) to provide program access to caregivers in their homes.

DESIGN AND METHODS: SCP experts were surveyed to evaluate Tele-Savvy's fidelity to SCP. A convenience sample of 30 dementia caregivers from the Atlanta VA Medical Center enrolled in the Tele-Savvy clinical demonstration program. Twenty-two caregivers completed both pre- and postprogram evaluations, which included measures of caregiver stress and competence and behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD).

RESULTS: Expert review confirmed Tele-Savvy's fidelity with and, in certain domains, improvement on the original. Participants demonstrated moderately high initial levels of burden, anxiety, and depressive symptoms all of which decreased significantly postprogram in an intention to treat analysis. Similar reductions were seen in care recipients' BPSD and caregivers' reactions to them. Marginally significant increases in caregiver competence were observed. Caregiver and expert panel evaluations of program quality were enthusiastic.

IMPLICATIONS: An effective online caregiver psychoeducation program could provide greatly expanded access for caregivers who cannot attend in person for reasons of distance, transportation limitations, and caregiving responsibilities. Further testing in a controlled trial is needed to establish program efficacy.

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