Finding Meaning in Written Emotional Expression by Family Caregivers of Persons With Dementia

This study tested the effect of written emotional expression on the ability to find meaning in caregiving and the effects of finding meaning on emotional state and psychological burden in 91 dementia family caregivers. In a pretest–posttest design, participants were randomly assigned to either an experimental or a comparison group. Experimental caregivers (n = 57) wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings about caring for a family member with dementia, whereas those in the comparison group (n = 34) wrote about nonemotional topics. Results showed enhanced meaning-making abilities in experimental participants relative to comparison participants, particularly for those who used more positive emotion words. Improved meaning-making ability was in turn associated with psychological benefits at posttest, but experimental participants did not show significantly more benefit than comparison participants. We explore the mediating roles of the meaning-making process as well as some of the background characteristics of the individual caregivers and their caregiving environments.

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