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Aging Ment Health. 2014;18(6):801-8. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2014.880406. Epub 2014 Feb 5.

Cognitive-behavioural group therapy improves a psychophysiological marker of stress in caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

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a Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Division of Neurology , Geneva University Hospitals , Geneva , Switzerland.



Family caregivers of patients with dementia frequently experience psychological stress, depression and disturbed psychophysiological activity, with increased levels of diurnal cortisol secretion.


To compare the effects of a cognitive-behavioural group therapy (CBT) to a psychoeducation group programme (EDUC) on cortisol secretion in caregivers of patients with moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD).


Caregivers of AD outpatients were semi-randomly allocated to one of two intervention programmes (CBT or EDUC) consisting of eight weekly sessions. Twenty-six participants completed the study. Before and after intervention, salivary cortisol was collected at four different times of the day. Effects of the interventions were evaluated with self-report psychological scales and questionnaires related to functional abilities and neuropsychiatric symptoms of the AD relative.


Only in the CBT group did salivary cortisol levels significantly decrease after intervention, with a large effect size and high achieved power. Both groups reported a reduction of neuropsychiatric symptoms of their AD relative after intervention.


Psychoeducation for caregivers may contribute to a reduction of neuropsychiatric symptoms of AD patients while CBT additionally attenuates psychophysiological responses to stressful situations in caregivers, by reducing diurnal cortisol levels. This may lead to a positive impact in the general health of the caregiver, eventually resulting in better care of the AD patient.


Alzheimer; burden; caregiver; cognitive–behavioural therapy; cortisol; dementia; neuropsychiatric symptoms; psychoeducation; stress

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