Aim. The aim of this was to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions provided by a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) in reducing stress in carers of individuals with dementia.
Background. The CMHT had been created to working specifically with older people with mental health problems and their carers. Following initial multidisciplinary assessment a range of interventions were provided to both clients and carers according to assessed need. There is an established need for mental health services to focus on the need of carers and the study attempts to see if the interventions provided were useful in reducing carer stress.
Method. The study used a time series design over a 2-year period on all referrals to the CMHT. All carers of individuals with dementia or clearly identified memory problems were invited to participate and a total of 26 carers consented and participated in all stages of data collection. Data were collected on initial assessment, as well as 3 and 6 months following the initial assessment using the Caregiver Strain Index (CSI). A questionnaire was also administered which collected basic demographic information and details of symptoms demonstrated by the carer's relatives.
Results. On initial assessment the mean CSI score for the overall sample was 9·23. The mean CSI reading at 3 months (6·63) and 6 months period (4·12) demonstrated statistically highly significant reductions in carer stress (P = 0·000). A linear stepwise regression analysis of the impact of the different interventions on reductions in the CSI scores showed a statistically significant relationship between respite care and reduction in carer stress (B = 1·705, t = 2·586, P = 0·017).
Conclusion. The results add support to the role of multidisciplinary community based services for individuals with dementia, offering a range of interventions to both clients and their carers, in reducing carer stress. The authors also argue for the routine use of the CSI in such teams as means of monitoring the well-being of carers as well as evaluating the effectiveness of service delivery.