Family members are an essential resource to older individuals with chronic illness and disability. Without the care and support provided by relatives, it would be difficult and often impossible for persons with disability to remain in the community. Current estimates indicate that more than 40 million Americans provide assistance annually to an adult relative because of illness and disability. There is strong consensus that caring for an individual with disability is burdensome and stressful to most family members and contributes to psychiatric morbidity in the form of elevated rates of depression and anxiety and, in extreme cases, murder-suicide. Research also suggests that the combination of loss, prolonged distress, physical demands of caregiving, and biological vulnerabilities of older caregivers may compromise their physiologic functioning and increase their risk for physical health problems.
The literature search conducted for this article was aimed at identifying recently published evaluations of psychosocial family caregiver interventions, defined as nonmedical interventions that are psychologically, socially, or behaviorally oriented and that involved a member of an older patient's family or both the patient and family member. To identify studies for review, computerized literature searches of numerous electronic databases were performed in May 2005.