BACKGROUND: Nonprofessional caregivers are highly important in the everyday life of patients with depression. Yet, they may experience increased levels of burden, stress, depression, and anxiety. Therefore, there is a need for interventions that relieve symptoms and are accessible and time-efficient. This paper describes the protocol of a pilot study to evaluate (1) the feasibility of an online self-management intervention, E-care 4 caregivers, for the nonprofessional caregiver of patients with depression, and (2) the initial effects of E-care 4 caregivers on psychological distress, subjective burden, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and quality of life.
METHODS/DESIGN: The study is a randomized controlled trial in which we are comparing the E-care 4 caregivers online intervention with a wait list control group. Eighty-four nonprofessional caregivers of patients with depression aged 18 years or older are being recruited from among the general population. Feasibility is determined by semistructured telephone interviews evaluating the subjects' satisfaction with the intervention and by using a questionnaire on the user-friendliness of the system. The primary outcome measure used to examine the initial effects of the intervention is psychological distress. Secondary outcome measures are subjective burden, symptoms of anxiety and depression, level of mastery, and quality of life. Assessments will be done at baseline and 6 weeks later. Statistical analysis of the effects of the intervention will be carried out on the basis of the intention-to-treat principle.
DISCUSSION: E-care 4 caregivers could potentially benefit nonprofessional caregivers, as well as patients and professionals indirectly.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Netherlands Trial Register identifier: NTR5268 . Registered on 30 June 2015.