Respite and social support improve caregivers’ wellbeing more than exercise interventions

Innovation in Aging  |  Tai Sims, Kristine Talley, Joseph Gaugler, Cynthia Peden-McAlpine, Laura Kirk, Fang Yu

For persons with Alzheimer’s dementia (PWAD), the majority of care is provided by informal caregivers. This small study conducted with the help of LCC members Kristine Talley and Joseph Gaugler, looked to see if programs to engage PWAD in exercise programs had any impact on the wellbeing of their caregivers. 

The researchers evaluated the impact of a 6-month, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise intervention for community-dwelling PWAD on their caregivers, specifically self-reported burden, well-being, and general health. Quantitative and qualitative information was collected about 25 caregivers, primarily white females between the ages of 34 and 86. 

The study found the intervention did not have any impact on the general health of the caregivers. The qualitative findings suggest that improved burden and wellbeing for caregivers was because of the respite and social support provided by the program, not the impact of the actual exercise. The study provides insight that integrating family caregiver components into community-based exercise programs may benefit both PWAD and their caregivers.