Behavioral health characteristics of a technology-enabled sample of Alzheimer’s caregivers with high caregiver burden

Ian Coffman, Helaine E. Resnick, Corinna E. Lathan


Background: Caregivers of persons with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease (AD) experience considerable physical and psychological burdens associated with their caregiving role. Although mobile technologies have the potential to deliver caregiver supports, it is necessary to demonstrate that caregivers in need of these supports are technology-enabled, that they can be identified and accessed, and that they experience the same unfavorable mental health outcomes characteristic of the broader caregiving population. Our objective was to enroll a cohort of technology-enabled caregivers to determine basic demographic characteristics and assess level of caregiver burden, depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance as part of a larger project to deliver caregiver support.
Methods: Web-based enrollment and data collection measuring caregiver burden with the Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI), anxiety and depression with the M-3, and sleep disturbance with the PROMIS Sleep Disturbance form.
Results: A total of 165 caregivers enrolled via an online portal, all of whom provided care for someone with AD and owned a smart phone. Mean age of this group with 57.9 years, 90.3% was female, 88.5% was White, 51.5% reported providing care for a parent, 9.3% reported providing care for more than 10 years, and 24.8% reported providing more than 100 hours of care each week. Sixty-four percent of caregivers screened positive for both anxiety and depression, and nearly 62% of the sample had moderate or severe caregiver burden. Scores on depression, anxiety, and sleep quality assessments correlated moderately or strongly with caregiver burden.
Conclusions: Dementia caregivers with Internet and smartphone access demonstrate high levels of caregiver burden, depression, and anxiety, and are well-suited to receive caregiver support services delivered via mobile devices that target these issues.