Improv and Caregiving: Effects on levels of depression, emotional resiliency, stress, and positive aspects of caregiving for people with dementias




Luk-Jones, Susanna
Siddiq, Zayd
Davis, Sandra
Parker, Kimberlee
Reuter, Kristen


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Purpose: Caregivers for people with dementia often experience high levels of depression, stress, and overall burden. To help reduce these negative effects and foster a positive outlook towards caregiving, we conducted nine, two-hour caregiver workshops from February 2019 to November 2019. We hoped to determine whether improv therapy improved measures of caregiver burden, resilience, depression, stress, and self-reported positive aspects of caregiving and whether these measures significantly varied based on caregiver age and gender. Methods: 37 participants enrolled in improv cohorts over the 10-month study period and completed pre-workshop Resilience Score, Zarit Caregiver Burden, Patient Health Questionnaire, Stress Thermometer, and Positive Aspects of Caregiving evaluations. 25 participants completed the same forms after two weeks. Workshops consisted of improv techniques including "yes, and...," and storytelling. Results: Of the 37 participants, 24 identified as female and 13 identified as male. On average, female caregivers had higher pre-program PHQ-8, stress, and burden scores than their male counterparts (p-value < 0.05). Caregivers under the age of 70 (n=14) exhibited a significant improvement in burden scores after completing the improv workshop. Overall, there were no significant changes in pre vs post program measures for the general population of enrolled caregivers. Conclusion: Quantitative data did not provide clear evidence of sufficient improvement of burden for caregivers based on improv alone, but improv may be a beneficial addition to an existing dementia caregiver support and education program. Results also indicate that female caregivers in particular may benefit from support programs.