DOI: 10.3390/geriatrics8050086 ISSN:

Should Caregivers Also Be Included in Multicomponent Physical-Exercise-Based Interventions for People with a Neurocognitive Disorder? The Caregivers’ Perspective

Flávia Borges-Machado, Duarte Barros, Paula Silva, Pedro Marques, Joana Carvalho, Oscar Ribeiro
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Gerontology
  • Aging
  • Health (social science)

Informal caregivers of people with neurocognitive disorders (NCDs) may play a decisive role in guaranteeing partners’ participation in community-based physical exercise interventions. However, little is still known about their perspective on being involved in such programs that are specifically designed for their partners. This study aimed to explore the views of caregivers of people with NCDs about taking part in a multicomponent physical exercise intervention with their partners and to explore the perceived impact of this program on those caregivers who enrolled in it. An exploratory qualitative study was conducted with 20 caregivers (67.5 ± 13.94 years; seven female) from the “Body & Brain” project. Ten took part in the physical exercise sessions (active-participating caregivers), and the others did not (social-participating caregivers). Data retrieved from semi-structured interviews were analyzed following a thematic analysis approach. Regardless of their participation level, all caregivers reported their inclusion to be important in enhancing their partners’ initiation and engagement in the sessions; also, they all identified personal gains. Active-participating caregivers reported exercise-related benefits on general health, enjoyment, and social connectedness. Social-participating caregivers considered this intervention an opportunity for respite and appreciated being involved only occasionally (i.e., occasional gatherings or telephone contacts). The findings support the inclusion of caregivers in physical exercise interventions designed for partners with NCDs, considering their decisive role in the partners’ adherence and engagement and due to the perceived gains. Future community-based interventions designed for people with NCDs should consider giving caregivers the opportunity to choose whether they want or not to be actively involved in the exercise sessions. Further studies with larger samples are needed to verify these results, comparing caregivers’ point of view at baseline and post-intervention.

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