Mindfulness‐based stress reduction for family carers of people with dementia

Liu, Z., Sun, Y. Y., & Zhong, B. L. |2018 | Mindfulness‐based stress reduction for family carers of people with dementia| The Cochrane Library.

A new review from Cochrane posed the question: How effective is mindfulness‐based stress reduction (MBSR) in reducing stress‐related problems of family carers of people with dementia? 

Background

Dementia has become a public health burden worldwide. Caring for people with dementia is highly stressful, thus carers are more likely to suffer from psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety, than general population. Mindfulness‐based stress reduction is a potentially promising intervention to target these issues. More information is needed about whether MBSR can help family carers of people with dementia.

Study characteristics

We searched for evidence up to September 2017 and found five randomised controlled trials (clinical trials where people are randomly assigned to one of two or more treatment groups) comparing MBSR to a variety of other interventions. We reported the effects of MBSR programmes compared with active controls (interventions in which participants received a similar amount of attention to those in the MBSR group, such as social support or progressive muscle relaxation) or inactive controls (interventions in which participants received less attention than those in the MBSR group, such as self help education).

Key results

We were able to analyse study data from five randomised controlled trials involving a total of 201 carers. Findings from three studies (135 carers) showed that carers receiving MBSR may have a lower level of depressive symptoms at the end of treatment than those receiving an active control treatment. However, we found no clear evidence of any effect on depression when MBSR was compared with an inactive control treatment. Mindfulness‐based stress reduction may also lead to a reduction in carers’ anxiety symptoms at the end of treatment. Mindfulness‐based stress reduction may slightly increase carers’ feelings of burden. However, the results on anxiety and burden were very uncertain. We were unable to draw conclusions about carers’ coping strategies and the risk of dropping out of treatment due to the very low quality of the evidence.

None of the studies measured quality of life of carers or people with dementia, or the rate of admission of people with dementia to care homes or hospitals.

Only one included study reported on adverse events, noting one minor adverse event (neck strain in one participant practising yoga at home)

Quality of the evidence

We considered the quality of the evidence to be low or very low, mainly because the studies were small and the way they were designed or conducted put them at risk of giving biased results. Consequently, we have limited confidence in the results.

Conclusion

To summarise, the review provides preliminary evidence on the effect of MBSR in treating some stress‐related problems of family carers of people with dementia. More good‐quality studies are needed before we can confirm whether or not MBSR is beneficial for family carers of people with dementia.

Read the full review at the Cochrane Library here  

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