BACKGROUND: In this review, we study the effects of dyadic psychosocial interventions focused on community-dwelling people with dementia and their family caregivers, and the relationship of the effects with intervention components of programs.
METHODS: A search from January 2005 to January 2012 led to 613 hits, which we reviewed against our inclusion criteria. We added studies from 1992 to 2005 reviewed by Smits et al. (Smits, C. H. M., De Lange, J., Droes, R.-M., Meiland, F., Vernooij-Dassen, M. and Pot, A. M. (2007). Effects of combined intervention programs for people with dementia living at home and their caregivers: a systematic review. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22, 1181–1193). We assessed the methodological quality of 41 programs with the Cochrane criteria and two items of the Oxford Centre of Evidence-based Medicine guidelines.
RESULTS: Studies of moderate to high quality concerning 20 different dyadic psychosocial programs for people with dementia and caregivers were included. Nineteen of these programs show significant effects on the patient with dementia, the caregiver, or both. Due to differences in the programs and the studies, this study does not provide an unequivocal answer about which programs are most effective. Programs with intervention components that actively train one or more specific functional domains for the person with dementia and/or the caregiver seem to have a beneficial impact on that domain, although there are exceptions. Reasons can be found in the program itself, the implementation of the program, and the study design.
CONCLUSIONS: Dyadic psychosocial programs are effective, but the outcomes for the person with dementia and the caregiver vary. More attention is needed for matching the targeted functional domains, intervention components, and delivery characteristics of a program with the needs of the person with dementia and the family caregiver.