Workshops help carers cope with eating disorders, Deakin University researchers find
3 July 2009
Weekly workshops for carers of a loved one recovering from an eating disorder have been shown to improve carers' coping and communication skills.
Deakin University eating disorder experts, Drs Genevieve Pepin and Ross King, ran a pilot study to examine the impact of the workshops which were based on a program aimed at altering factors related to carer distress and burden developed at the Maudsley Hospital in London.
"Anorexia and bulimia both typically begin in adolescence and affect 3-5 per cent of the population, particularly females," Dr Pepin explained.
"Caring for someone with an eating disorder can be difficult and is associated with significant strain, worry, stress and fatigue. Carers are an invaluable part of an eating disorder sufferer's recovery and treatment, it is therefore important that we provide support for the carers as well."
In the study, 16 carers of adolescents and adults with anorexia or bulimia attended two-hour workshops each week for six weeks.
Drs Pepin and King, both of whom have previously facilitated support groups for carers of a person with an eating disorder, taught the carers new methods of coping as well as skills to communicate with their loved one to reduce conflict and anger.
Dr Pepin said that, in particular, the workshops aimed to improve carers' ability to work collaboratively with the affected person and to communicate in such a way as to increase the person's readiness to change their eating behaviour.
"By evaluating and changing their own caring style and communication skills, a carer can model change for the person for whom they are caring," Dr Pepin said.
"As a result of attending the workshops, the majority of the carers felt more confident in their ability to manage the difficult task of caring. This leads to a reduced sense of burden and builds hope that change can occur.
"In addition, carers felt the chance to meet other carers reduced their feeling of isolation."
Drs Pepin and King are now collaborating with the Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria to run the workshops throughout Victoria, including Geelong and Bendigo. For those living in rural regions, a similar program using telephone coaching will also be trialled.
To obtain details about the workshops and telephone coaching programs and to register, carers can contact Eating Disorders Victoria on 9885 1153.
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