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Healthy Aging Research Program: Engage Coaching Project

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Why we conducted the study: The objective of the Engage Coaching Project was to develop useful strategies for helping individuals who are caring for a family member with dementia improve their social relationships and social supports. 30 adults aged 50 or older who were caring for a family member or friend with dementia enrolled in the study. At the start of the study, these individuals also reported feeling stressed due to caring for their family member/friend, as well as feeling isolated, left out, or that they lacked companionship, which are indicators that someone may be experiencing loneliness. The reason we conducted the trial is that loneliness and stress due to caregiving place an individual at risk for poor health and lower quality of life. While there can be many positive aspects of caregiving, some aspects of caregiving can make it harder to connect with others, which can make individuals more likely to experience feeling isolated, left out, or that they lack companionship.

smart goalsWhat participants in the study did: All participants in the Engage Coaching Project were offered 8 Engage Coaching sessions (free of charge). This involved meeting with an Engage Coach on a weekly basis. The meetings were brief (approximately 30 mins) and were conducted via video or phone call. The coaching was designed to help participants enhance their relationships and improve well-being while managing stress. Coaches helped participants identify goals for improving their social relationships by completing a process we call ‘action planning,’ in which participants set a goal for the week, brainstorm strategies to meet the goal, and identify concrete steps to take to achieve the goal. Participants also worked with their coaches to identify any aspects of caregiving that presented barriers to improving relationships and then employing strategies to address those barriers. Participants also completed research assessments at the start of the study (before coaching) and three months later (after finishing coaching). At the final assessment, participants provided feedback on what was helpful (and not helpful) about coaching.

What we found: A total of 30 caregivers enrolled over 10 months, 25 completed 3-month follow-up assessments (83%), 25 completed at least 5 coaching sessions (83%), and all who completed the 3-month assessment reported the program was suitable and convenient. Participants who provided reasons for discontinuing sessions (n=4) all stated that caregiving responsibilities made it too challenging for them to participate. While not initially designed for remote delivery, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated that coaching be delivered remotely for all participants, the majority of whom said that they preferred video or phone sessions due to challenges with scheduling or leaving the person with dementia home alone. We also found that 60% of participants demonstrated significant improvements (reductions) in loneliness, 48% in satisfaction with social relationships and activities, 72% in perceived social isolation, 71% for caregiving strain, and 80% for quality of life. These results are promising and support future study of Engage Coaching for Caregivers, including ways to integrate it into settings that provide services for dementia caregivers.

This study is funded by the National Institute on Aging and is part of the Rochester Roybal Center for Social Ties & Aging Research.

For more information:

  • Engage Coaching for Caregivers was described at a national webinar: “engAGED Webinar on Social Engagement and Mental Health, engGAGED: The National Resource for Center for Engaging Older Adults, Social Engage Coaching,” on November 18, 2022, virtual event (recording available online).
  • Engage Coaching for caregivers is also listed in the engAGED Innovations Hub (database for social connectedness interventions).
  • The Engage Coaching for Caregivers manual will be available on the website of the Rochester Roybal Center for Social Ties & Aging Research.
  • A manuscript describing the study was published: Van Orden K.A., Bower, E., Lutz, J., & Silva, C. (2023). Engage coaching for caregivers: a pilot trial to reduce loneliness in dementia caregivers.; Aging & mental health. 2023 Mar 10. 10.1080/13607863.2023.2187345
  • Results of the trial are also publicly available on

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