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Virtual Support Groups for Informal Caregivers of Individuals With Dementia

A Scoping Review

Armstrong, Melissa J. MD, MSc, FAAN*,†; Alliance, Slande MPH*

Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders: October–December 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 4 - p 362–369
doi: 10.1097/WAD.0000000000000349
Review Article

Objective: The purpose of this scoping systematic review was to inform virtual support group development for informal caregivers of dementia by identifying published approaches, outcomes, barriers, and facilitators.

Methods: A scoping systematic review was performed using 5 search engines. Studies were included if they utilized virtual support groups for informal caregivers of persons with dementia. Study details, support group characteristics, outcomes, barriers, facilitators, and recommended approaches were extracted and summarized.

Results: Of 1052 identified articles, 87 were retrieved; 62 were excluded largely because they described other virtual interventions. Groups typically used teleconferences or internet-based videoconferences, included 4 to 6 participants, lasted 60 minutes, and occurred weekly or monthly. Moderators were professionals; moderator training was common. Content focused on support, education, or both. Covered topics included dementia knowledge, caregiving skills, coping, and resources. Costs related to technology, programming, and staffing. Although most studies identified no statistical differences, caregivers described many participation benefits. Common barriers were technology and access. Facilitators included training, technology support, small groups, and skilled leaders.

Conclusions: Clinics desiring to start virtual support groups should consider videoconferencing or telephone approaches with pretraining, technology support, and professional moderators. Clinics need adequate resources, particularly for technology, and identification of locally relevant goals and approach.

*Department of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine

McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

M.J.A. is supported by an ARHQ K08 career development award (K08HS24159). She receives research support from a 1Florida ADRC (AG047266) pilot grant and as the local PI of a Lewy Body Dementia Association Research Center of Excellence. She has received research support from the Michael J. Fox Foundation. She receives compensation from the American Academy of Neurology for work as an evidence-based medicine methodology consultant. Lewy body dementia research at the University of Florida is supported by the University of Florida Dorothy Mangurian Headquarters for Lewy Dementia and the Raymond E. Kassar Research Fund for Lewy Body Dementia. S.A. has nothing to declare.

Reprints: Melissa J. Armstrong, MD, MSc, FAAN, Department of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine, McKnight Brain Institute, P.O. Box 100236, Gainesville, FL 32610 (e-mail:

Received May 31, 2019

Accepted August 28, 2019

Online date: September 23, 2019

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