Acquiring New Skills While Enhancing Remaining Strengths (ANSWERS)

Citation: Judge, Y. (2013). Improved Strain and Psychosocial Outcomes for Caregivers of Individuals with Dementia: Findings from Project ANSWERS. The Gerontologist, 53(2), 280–292. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gns076

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Purpose

This study examined the efficacy of a newly developed intervention, Acquiring New Skills While Enhancing Remaining Strengths (ANSWERS), for family caregivers of individuals with dementia. ANSWERS was designed for dyads comprised of an individual with dementia and his/her family caregiver. Using a strength-based approach, ANSWERS combined educational skills (traditionally used with caregivers) and cognitive rehabilitation skills training (traditionally used with individuals with dementia) into a single protocol for addressing the dyad’s care issues and needs. Key domains addressed by the intervention included: education about dementia and memory loss; effective communication; managing memory; staying active; and recognizing emotions and behaviors. This analysis focused on outcomes for caregivers.

Design & Methods

The Stress Process Model guided the study’s hypotheses and design. Caregiving dyads were randomly assigned to the control or intervention conditions. Intervention dyads received 6-curriculum guided sessions with an intervention specialist. Data came from in-person baseline interviews with caregivers conducted prior to randomization and follow-up interviews conducted approximately 14.56 weeks post-baseline.

Results

Intervention caregivers, compared to controls, had decreased care-related strain as indicated by lower emotional health strain, dyadic relationship strain, role captivity, and higher caregiving mastery. Additionally, intervention caregivers had improved well-being as indicated by fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Implications

ANSWERS was efficacious in improving key strain and psychosocial outcomes for caregivers. Features essential to the success of ANSWERS included a strength-based approach for selecting, developing, and implementing care goals, as well as teaching caregivers educational and cognitive rehabilitation skills for addressing care needs.