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Study Shows Web Program with Remote Coaching Can Reduce Stress and Depression for Informal Caregivers

January 17, 2024

Remote coaching with a social worker, added to a specially designed caregiver website, reduced stress, distress, anxiety and depression among 151 informal caregivers of people with MS. With further testing, this type of convenient and effective program could help relieve caregiver stress and improve quality of life for both caregivers and the people they care for. See below for resources available now that can help caregivers get care for themselves.

Background: Caring for someone with a chronic illness like MS can be deeply satisfying but can also be physically and emotionally exhausting. In many cases, the caregiver is “informal,” or unpaid - a partner, spouse, child, parent or friend. Researchers at Case Western University tested methods of improving emotional outcomes in caregivers with funding from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

The Study: The team enrolled 151 caregivers in the study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. One group had access to a carefully developed website that included information about MS itself, about finding reliable information on the internet, caring for a loved one, COVID-19, caring for one’s self, and planning/decision-making. The second group had access to the website as well as four personalized coaching sessions from a trained social worker, delivered remotely. Before and after the intervention, investigators assessed levels of stress, distress, anxiety, and depression.

Results: Assessments before the study showed that 20% to 40% of caregivers had levels of stress, distress, anxiety, or depression – levels that would indicate the need for help. Those receiving coaching in addition to website access saw significant reductions in these negative emotional outcomes, but not those in the group with website access alone.

Why does this matter? First, this study draws attention to the emotional needs of informal caregivers of people with MS. But it also shows that these needs can be addressed with appropriate interventions. Although the findings warrant confirmation in a larger number of people, they do indicate what might be ideal components for such interventions.

Learn more…
Resources are available now to help caregivers care for themselves. See this list of Carepartner Support Resources for People Affected by MS – find ways to connect with peers, tools for organizing caregiving needs, and more.

Effect of 2-Arm Intervention on Emotional Outcomes in Informal Caregivers of Individuals With Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Pilot Study Trial” by Sara L. Douglas, PhD, RN; Matthew Plow, PhD; Tanya Packer, PhD; Amy R. Lipson, PhD; and Michelle J. Lehman, MSc is published in International Journal of MS Care (2023;25(6):252-258).
 

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Currently there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include disabling fatigue, mobility challenges, cognitive changes, and vision issues. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimize disability. Significant progress is being made to achieve a world free of MS.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The National MS Society, founded in 1946, is the global leader of a growing movement dedicated to creating a world free of MS. The Society funds cutting-edge research for a cure, drives change through advocacy and provides programs and services to help people affected by MS live their best lives. Connect to learn more and get involved: nationalMSsociety.org, Facebook, X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or 1-800-344-4867.

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© 2024 The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a tax exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its Identification Number (EIN) is 13-5661935.