24 November, 2021

Support programme for carers of people with dementia recommended for use in Wales

A psychological support programme aimed at reducing depression among carers of dementia patients has been recommended for use in Wales by Health Technology Wales.

START (STrAtegies for RelaTives), an eight-week programme of psychological support, has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce depression in those caring for people with dementia.

The START programme offers sessions on coping strategies, planning for the future, techniques for behaviour management, self-care and education about dementia and can be tailored to suit carers’ needs.

Researchers at Health Technology Wales (HTW) which assessed the evidence to support the programme, found it to be both effective and cost effective and that it has a long-term impact on the wellbeing of carers.  They concluded that it should be made available to all carers of people with dementia in Wales.

Now that it has been recommended for use across Wales, it could offer much needed support for unpaid carers who, according to research, are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression due to the pressures of caring for a loved one with dementia.

During the appraisal process, HTW worked closely with the Alzheimer’s Society to gather the views and experiences of people living with dementia and their carers by holding focus groups and sending out questionnaires to those affected in the wider community.

These highlighted the burden placed on the mental health and well-being of people caring for somebody with dementia and the additional challenges posed by having reduced support available during the pandemic.

Lisa Trigg, Assistant Director of Research, Data and Intelligence at Social Care Wales, said:

“There’s an army of carers in Wales who need our support.  Carers of people with dementia often experience loneliness and social isolation and this can lead to significant mental health challenges. Providing psychological support to carers has real benefits in both the short and long term. We are delighted that this could potentially be made available to carers in Wales in the form of the START programme.”

Peter Groves, Chairman of Health Technology Wales, added:

“Health Technology Wales learnt about the considerable pressures that are placed on carers of people with dementia and the importance of providing effective support measures to maintain or restore their well-being.  This appraisal concluded that there is good evidence that the START programme does exactly that and that the benefits in reducing depression and improving quality of life for carers is maintained long after the formal programme finishes.  We recommend that the START programme be made available for people in Wales and conclude that this will not only provide important benefits to carers but will be an effective use of resources.”

Read the full guidance here.