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Social Interaction and Social Support

Section Co-ordinator: Valérie Poulin et Véronique Provencher

Research Interests and Objectives

The Family and Professional Caregivers Research Section examines issues affecting family members and professionals who provide care to older persons who are suffering from poor health or dementia.

The objectives that the Section has pursued are as follows: a) to conduct a broad, multi-centre study; b) to develop a measuring instrument; c) to develop a research project on the professional and family caregivers involved in deciding how to manage an older person’s care following a stay in a short-term care facility; d) to develop a training program for professional caregivers; and e) to establish Canadian and European partnerships.


The Section’s primary achievement has been to develop, deliver, and evaluate an innovative group psycho-educational program, based mainly on the stress-and-coping paradigm, for over 150 family caregivers from Sherbrooke, Montreal, and Quebec City. This program was evaluated over a period of three years and was found to be effective in reducing the disturbing feelings that caregivers experienced when dealing with behavioural problems in elderly dementia patients. In the evaluation process, a large volume of qualitative and quantitative information was gathered. The qualitative data in particular enabled the researchers to determine which elements of the program the participants had made the best use of. The results of this program have been presented at several national and international scientific conferences.

Another important part of this project consisted in developing an instrument for measuring the effectiveness of particular strategies for coping with particular stressors. This parameter was central to the paradigm used in this study, but no instrument for measuring it had existed previously. The Section has conducted two studies to date to validate this instrument in Quebec, and the Section’s partners at the University of Toulouse, France, will be validating it with caregivers in that country.

To maximize the transfer of knowledge from this project, the Section’s group psycho-educational program for family caregivers has also been used as the platform to develop a training program for professional caregivers in settings such as community clinics and Alzheimer Society offices. This initiative required the manuals originally written for family caregivers to be rewritten for this new, professional target audience.

The Family and Professional Caregivers Section has also signed an agreement with the continuing-education department at Laval University, which will soon begin offering intensive training sessions for caregivers, based on the Section’s program. The Alzheimer Society of Canada has funded the translation of the training manuals from French into English so that they will be accessible to English-speaking caregivers. The Section has also made presentations on this training program recently to a number of European organizations.