Digital peer-to-peer support programme for informal caregivers of people living with motor neuron disease: study protocol for a multi-centre parallel group, single-blinded (outcome assessor) randomised controlled superiority trial

Louise Rose*, Thilipan Thaventhiran, Esther Hobson, Rebecca Rogers, Kirsty James, Petrina Chu, Ben Carter, Christina Faull, Sian Saha, Jeong Su Lee, Georgios Kaltsakas, Christopher McDermott, Michelle Ramsay

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background: Peer support is effective in improving psychological well-being of family caregivers of people with conditions such as dementia, cancer, and brain injury. However, there are limited data on effective psychological interventions for family caregivers of people living with motor neurone disease. Our objective is to evaluate the efficacy of a virtual peer support programme for improving caregiver psychological wellbeing and caregiving related outcomes. Methods: We will conduct a multi-centre parallel group randomised controlled superiority trial. Using a multi-modal recruitment strategy, we will recruit informal caregivers from UK MND clinics, in-patient units, and hospices. We will randomise (1:1, stratified by gender) participants to either a 12-week virtual peer support programme or usual care comprising provision of online information resources publicly available via the MND Association website. Peer support programme elements will be delivered via a secure digital e-platform aTouchAway™ (Aetonix, Canada). Our target sample size is 160 (80 each arm). Our primary outcome is the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) assessed at 12 weeks (primary endpoint). Secondary outcomes that will also be assessed at 12 weeks include the Zarit Burden Interview, Pearlin Mastery Scale, Personal Gain Scale, Positive Affect Scale, and the Brief COPE. Outcome assessors will be blinded to allocation. Tertiary outcomes include perceived usability (1 item 9-point Likert scale) and acceptability (semi-structured qualitative interviews) of the peer support programme. Intervention fidelity measures will comprise frequency, type (text, audio, video), and duration (audio and video) of peer support contact downloaded from the aTouchAway AWS server. We will use a mixed-effects linear model to test the effect of the intervention on the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes will be analysed using linear regression. We have ethical approval (21/NW/0269) from the North-West Research Ethics Committee, UK. Discussion: This single-blinded randomised controlled trial will determine the effect of a virtual peer support programme on caregiver psychological wellbeing and caregiver burden. This study will examine the impact of a virtual peer support intervention on quality-of-life measures in informal caregivers of individuals with MND living in the community. Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov:

Original languageEnglish
Article number119
JournalTrials
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2023

Keywords

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Informal caregiver
  • Motor Neuron Disease
  • Peer support
  • Randomised controlled trial
  • e-Health

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