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Primary Focus: Productive Aging

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this session, participants will be able to:

1. Describe implications of caring for an older adult family member with dementia.

2. Explain occupational therapy (OT) interventions that increase quality of life among caregivers of older adults with dementia.

3. Discuss strategies that can be integrated into occupational therapy practice to improve caregiver quality of life.


Purpose: Dementia is a growing problem as the older adult population increases. Many individuals with dementia are cared for by family members, and nearly 60% of these caregivers report the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high (Alzheimer’s Association, 2014). Caring for a family member with dementia can affect caregivers’ occupational performance, impact the effectiveness of the caregiver, and decrease their quality of life (AOTA, 2012). This systematic review seeks to identify effective OT interventions that promote quality of life for family caregivers of older adults with dementia.

Method: A systematic review was conducted using the electronic databases CINAHL, PubMED, Ovid (Medline), and PsychINFO. Articles were included that met the following criteria: level I-IV evidence, publication between years 2007-2014, English-language, and peer-reviewed. Participant inclusion criteria included unpaid family caregivers of community-dwelling older adults with Alzheimer’s, vascular, or frontotemporal dementia and care recipients with a mean age of > 65. All authors collaborated to screen articles with title, abstract, and full text. Fifteen articles met the criteria and were critiqued using the Guidelines for Critical Review Form: Quantitative Studies (Letts, et al., 2008).

Results: Findings indicate there are effective interventions for increasing quality of life, reducing caregiver burden, and reducing depression in family caregivers of older adults with dementia. These include client-centered/tailored interventions, psychosocial interventions, interventions to improve the caregiver/care-recipient relationship, and behavioral management techniques. Interventions should involve multiple caregiver helping strategies such as problem-solving skills training and stress management techniques.

Conclusion: The results of this review indicate that there are several effective interventions for increasing caregivers’ quality of life, and community OT is effective in achieving the above results (Graff et al., 2007). OT interventions for this population should go beyond typical caregiver education. OTs should use client-centered practice and collaborate with clients to determine which interventions will address their most pressing needs prior to implementing interventions. Further research is recommended for more rigorous RCTs with larger sample sizes to determine which interventions are most effective in increasing caregiver quality of life.

Presentation: 43 minutes