Dementia caregivers’ coping with pre-death grief: effects of a CBT-based intervention

Meichsner, F. & Wilz, G. Aging & Mental Health. Published online: 28 Oct 2016

B0009841 Counselling for social anxiety disorder, illustration
Image source: Jasmine Parker – Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Objectives: Pre-death grief plays a significant role in dementia caregiving, and has adverse impacts on caregivers. It was the purpose of the present study to examine whether a cognitive-behavioral intervention including a grief intervention module could increase caregivers’ coping with pre-death grief and whether these effects could be maintained as of a six-month follow-up assessment.

Method: In a randomized-controlled trial examining the effectiveness of a cognitive-behavioral intervention, 273 caregivers were allocated to either an intervention or control group. Intervention group participants received 12 therapy sessions over six months; all participants completed a measure of pre-death grief. The analysis was conducted using latent change models. In the first model, study group was included as a predictor of change in pre-death grief; subsequent models also included care situation and sociodemographic variables.

Results: The burden due to pre-death grief was reduced for intervention but not control group participants at the time of the six-month follow-up assessment (Cohen’s d = −0.361). When controlling for changes in the care situation and sociodemographic variables, the treatment effect was also found in the assessment completed post intervention (Cohen’s d = −0.248).

Conclusion: Results indicate that a cognitive-behavioral intervention including grief-specific strategies can successfully foster caregivers’ coping with loss and reduce burden of pre-death grief.

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