The use of the term caregiver as a descriptor of a particular population masks the reality that the term as refers to an incredibly heterogeneous population. Caregivers can range in age, gender, relationship, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational level and functional status with each of these dimensions significantly impacting the nature and extent of the support they provide as well the appraisal of the caregiving experience itself. Pinquart & Sørensen (2006) describe five factors that are key to caregiver interventions, namely:
- Group vs individual setting
- Caregiver age
- Caregiver Gender
- Type of relationship with care receiver
What the literature and studies have demonstrated, however, is that in addition to the abovementioned dimensions, there can be significant impacts based on:
A further layer of complexity is added when one considers that it is not only these dimensions that influence the outcome of any given intervention, but also the intersection of these dimensions with each other that can shape the experience of the caregiver and ultimately the success or failure of any program within a particular population.
The literature for caregiver interventions demonstrates the breadth of ideas that have been put forward about what can be done to provide support for caregivers experiencing distress. In attempting to identify and distinguish interventions that are successful from those that are not, the research has uncovered a number of factors that both individually and in concert, influence the outcome of an intervention in a given population. As such, the success of an intervention depends on more factors than just the content or type of intervention itself; who the intervention is directed to, when and for what length of time are all incredibly important questions for which the current evidence has only peripherally has addressed. The seductive nature of relying on the experimental studies to demonstrate “certainty” of an outcome’s effectiveness can be tempered by the results that these experimental studies have borne out – namely that there is a high degree of variability with respect to effect size.