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iACT4CARERS: Online Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Family Carers of People with Dementia

carer and elderly person doing the dishes together

What we did and why we did it

Caring for someone with dementia can be hard, and family carers are much more likely to be depressed or anxious than other carers or non-carers. Unfortunately, family carers are currently under-provided for by NHS psychological services. This is because some carers are unable to travel, others do not have access to skilled therapists and, for others, finding somebody else to look after the person with dementia while they attend psychological services is an issue. Online treatments have the potential to overcome these challenges and improve equity of care. We conducted a preliminary study, funded by the NIHR, exploring whether it is possible to deliver Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for family carers of people with dementia online within NHS services and whether this new intervention is acceptable among family carers presenting anxiety or depression.

What we found

The study was successful with more than 100 potential participants being referred to the study in just six months. Thirty-three eligible participants received online ACT, more than we had originally planned.

More than 70% of participants completed seven or all eight online sessions. There was preliminary evidence of improvements in scores of anxiety and depression following the intervention, perhaps more so for anxiety.

Individual interviews with participants highlighted that participants liked the ACT techniques, the user-friendliness of the online system and feedback received from their dedicated online therapist.

Participants also expressed that the intervention led to some improvements in their life such as making them feel it is okay to ask for help and make some time for themselves. The findings revealed that participants also noticed increased activities such as more exercises to take care of themselves due to the intervention.

Take away points

1. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for family carers of people with dementia can be delivered online within NHS services.

2. The intervention may help cope with carer anxiety and depression, perhaps more so for anxiety.

3. The intervention may lead to some improvements in life such as making family carers feel it is okay to ask for help and make some time for themselves.

What’s Next?

A large-scale trial is now required to evaluate the effectiveness of online ACT and find out whether online ACT should be widely implemented.

The research team will use the findings from this pilot work and apply for a large grant to conduct a large-scale trial

Download the research recap iACT4CARERS.pdf 

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