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Stress Management Tool for Caregivers

CU School of Medicine

3/8/2016

Researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine are working to develop a way to help reduce stress in caregivers who are caring for patients receiving stem cell transplants. 

While the needs of patients are always paramount, the ability of caregivers to balance the needs of patients receiving treatment with their own well-being is critical. Previous studies by this group have shown the efficacy of brief, in-person, one-on-one stress management intervention to reduce stress in caregivers.

Now, Nicole Amoyal, PhD, a clinical psychology postdoctoral fellow in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and a team of researchers are working to adapt this support to mobile devices, such as cell phones and computers, in ways that would allow caregivers to access evidence-based skills to manage stress, enhance intimacy, and increase support via video instruction.

The effort, called Pep-Pal, or psychoeducation and coping skills training for these caregivers, consists of nine full-length sessions (less than ten minutes each), including segments on coping with stress, maintaining energy and stamina and managing changing relationships, intimacy, and communication. In addition, ten briefer sessions called “Mini-Peps,” allow caregivers to practice relaxation, mood enhancing, communication, and relationship building skills when they only have a couple minutes to themselves and without having to go through a full session.

To test Pep-Pal, Dr. Amoyal and the team convened a group of stakeholders consisting of caregivers, palliative care experts and a patient research panel. The feedback from these meetings, focus groups, and individual interviews will be used to improve the assistance that can be provided.

Dr. Amoyal will be presenting the research results at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society March 9-12.

Contributors to this research with Amoyal include Kristin Kilbourn PhD, MPH, Teresa Simoneau PhD, Tanisha Joshi PhD, Jean Kutner MD, MSPH, and Mark L. Laudenslager PhD, all from the University of Colorado. The work was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging (T32AG044296) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (CE-1304-6208).