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17-07-2013 | Mental health | Article

Online resource supports bipolar caregivers

Abstract

Free abstract

medwireNews: A website providing supportive information has proved popular with caregivers of patients with bipolar disorder, say researchers.

The website is based on a previous Delphi study that developed caregiver guidelines based on literature in addition to the views of clinicians, caregivers, and consumers. Its sections include information on bipolar disorder and its treatment, providing support, working with the patient, caregiver wellbeing, and links to other resources.

In all, 97% of the 536 caregivers who completed the website’s brief online survey found the resource to be useful or very useful, 93% felt it was relevant to their situation, and up to 96% said they would recommend it to other caregivers.

“Ideally, health services could have a role in providing individually tailored information and support to cater for the variety of caregiver needs over the illness trajectory, but this is not usually possible in practice,” say study author Lesley Berk (Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia) and co-workers.

They suggest that a website such as theirs “could form part of a stepped-care approach to supporting caregivers tailored to their needs, preferences and the accessibility of more specialized and individualized psychosocial interventions for families and caregivers.”

However, 3% of respondents did not find the website useful. The qualitative responses of 121 respondents to a follow-up email survey indicated that those who did not find the website useful were very experienced caregivers to difficult patients, who needed more specific information than the website supplied.

“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to supporting caregivers of people with bipolar disorder and a stepped care approach that facilitates needed access to more specialized interventions is required,” comment the researchers in BMC Medicine.

But the website clearly helped less experienced caregivers to put principles into practice, with a “surprising number” of respondents giving “concrete examples” of this, despite the follow-up survey being emailed to website users just a month after they had completed the online survey. Respondents made most use of the sections that covered providing support (72%), working together (68%), and caregiver wellbeing (64%).

Berk et al note that the information in the website has other, less practical but very important benefits. They say: “All follow-up participants reported that the information reassured them about the universality of their emotions and experience and some commented that it helped them to feel less alone and isolated.”

medwireNews (www.medwirenews.com) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Eleanor McDermid, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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