From: Reuters
Published May 12, 2008 05:52 PM

DVDs help caregivers of eating disorder patients

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Caregivers of eating disorder patients who used a skills training DVD along with telephone coaching to help them cope with their loved one's illness were highly satisfied with the program, saying it helped reduce their stress levels, UK researchers report.

With just 14 participants, the study was too small to show a significant effect of the training program on caregivers' psychological distress or depression, but there was a trend toward users having less distress after completing the program, Dr. Ana R. Sepulveda of Guy's Hospital, London and colleagues found.

"The high acceptance rate of this pilot study also shows that the carers of people with eating disorders seem highly motivated to receive support and take an active part in helping their relatives to recover," the researchers say.

People caring for a person with an eating disorder must provide substantial emotional support to the ill person, and may themselves suffer considerable distress, Sepulveda and her team explain.

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At the same time misunderstanding of the family and individual's role in the illness "can lead to patterns of overprotection, criticism or hostility," they note in the May issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders. "These problematic patterns of communication and reactions to the illness can hinder rather than help change," the researchers write.

Sepulveda and her colleagues developed a 3-day workshop to offer support to families of people with eating disorders and give them the skills they need to help the patient recover. In the current study, they tested a five-DVD program that included the workshop's educational content and skills training via Power Point presentations and video clips. Caregivers also were offered telephone coaching support to help them cope with crises.

When study participants' ratings of the five DVDs were averaged, 85.6% said they helped their stress levels, while 90.8% said they offered "at least enough" in terms of practical skills. Participants also said they found the telephone coaching to be helpful.

The findings, while preliminary, suggest that this "new form of intervention" could be relevant and useful, the researchers say. However, they add, some in-person contact may still be needed for the program to be truly effective.

SOURCE: International Journal of Eating Disorders, May 2008.

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