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New article examines online tools that may help ease caregivers’ strain

Nov 20, 2018

older man


Family members and friends who care for older adults living with chronic health conditions often suffer stress and even depression due to the strain of looking after loved ones on a daily basis over a long period of time.

Recently, researchers have been looking at ways of easing the emotional burden of caregivers, and some of these tools involve web-based information and support programs. But do they work, and if so, what kind of tools and to what extent can they help?

In a new study published in October in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, researchers analysed 14 previous studies of these tools.

The lead author, Dr. Jenny Ploeg, of McMaster School of Nursing, notes that “this study makes an important new contribution to our understanding of the effects of web-based interventions for family and friend caregivers of adults living with chronic conditions. Results show that these interventions reduce depressive symptoms, stress/distress, anxiety and strain, and improve self-efficacy and self-esteem. Further, the addition of professional or combined professional and peer psychosocial support to information or education only web-based interventions holds promise.”

Dr. Diana Sherifali, a co-author, also of McMaster School of Nursing, adds that “This study was a wonderful opportunity that brought together colleagues with expertise in older adults living with multimorbidity, and systematic review methods.  Collectively, we recognized that there were substantial data from several studies to analyze by the specific web-based intervention, and the impact on mental health and general health-related outcomes.  As a result, we were able to state which web-based interventions are most beneficial for informal caregivers.”

The McMaster Evidence Review and Synthesis Team (MERST) worked with the Aging, Community and Health Research Unit on these papers.

Article details: 

Ploeg, J., Ali, M.U., Markle-Reid, M., Valaitis, R., Bartholomew, A., Fitzpatrick-Lewis, D., McAiney, C., Sherifali, D. (2018). Caregiver-focused, web-based interventions: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Part 2. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(10), e11247. Doi: 10.2196/11247

A related study was published in July:

Sherifali D, Ali MU, Ploeg J, Markle-Reid M, Valaitis R, Bartholomew A, Fitzpatrick-Lewis D, McAiney C. (2018). Impact of Internet-Based Interventions on Caregiver Mental Health: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2018 Jul 3;20(7):e10668. doi: 10.2196/10668.

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