The principal aim of this study was to investigate whether a caregiver-inclusive assistive technology intervention improved older care recipients’ functional autonomy and decreased the perceived burden of their family caregivers compared to customary care.
The study was a single-blind, mixed-methods, randomized controlled trial with baseline data collection and follow-ups at 6-, 22-, and 58-weeks after baseline evaluation, which was prospectively registered (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01640470. Registered 11/21/2011). Dyads comprising a care recipient and family caregiver were randomly assigned to either a caregiver-inclusive experimental group (N = 44) or a customary-care comparison group (N = 46). Eligible care recipients were aged ≥55 years and had one or more limitations with mobility or daily activities, and family caregivers provided at least four hours per week of assistance. Outcome measures were administered to both groups at baseline and at the three follow-up time points. The data collectors were blinded regarding participants’ intervention group. The primary outcome measures were the Functional Autonomy Measurement System to assess care recipients’ functional performance, and the Caregiver Assistive Technology Outcome Measure to assess caregivers’ burden. Qualitative interviews examined participants’ perceptions of the caregiver-inclusive and customary care interventions.
The experimental intervention addressed significantly more dyad-identified problematic activities, but caregiver involvement was evident in both groups and outcomes were not significantly different over time. In both groups, care recipients’ functional autonomy declined significantly (P < .01), and caregivers’ activity-specific and overall burden decreased significantly (P < .01).
Given the unintended congruence between the caregiver-inclusive and customary care interventions, the overall findings lend support for the provision of assistive technology to reduce caregiver burden.