Cum Laude Master’s Research on Caring for the Caregivers

From left: Mr Dominique Schmid; Mrs Sandra Nightingale; master’s graduate, Ms Kelsey Nightingale; and Mr Geoff Nightingale.

Cum Laude Master’s Research on Caring for the Caregivers

Her work as a volunteer at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust motivated Ms Kelsey Nightingale to conduct research on the challenges confronted by caregivers and explore psychosocial interventions to assist them.

She was awarded her Master’s in Counselling Psychology cum laude.

Her thesis, entitled: Psychosocial Interventions for Caregivers of Individuals with Dementia: A Scoping Review, reviewed previous research on psychosocial interventions for dementia caregivers as they risk suffering from physical and psychological health issues. ‘The current literature demonstrates that individualised interventions for caregivers have shown positive results, but their implementation has been limited, bringing into question the content and nature of interventions, as well as the possible barriers that prevent their use. My research sought to further explore the literature surrounding this topic to determine what evidence there is for current psychosocial interventions for caregivers of individuals living with dementia,’ Nightingale said.

‘The findings suggest that a hybrid, holistic approach of therapeutic-based interventions which incorporate psycho-education and ongoing peer support would better address the wide range of mental health and education needs of dementia caregivers.’

Nightingale found that psycho-educational interventions had better outcomes, while therapeutic-based studies assisted with depression. Peer support also improved caregivers’ quality of life and well-being. ‘Caregivers play an extraordinary role in the lives of their patients and need support to be able to continue to do their jobs,’ she said.

Nightingale thanked her supervisor Professor Anna Meyer-Weitz, who kept her grounded and motivated throughout her postgraduate experience. ‘Professor Meyer-Weitz was my supervisor for both my honours and master’s degrees. She brings a calming guidance to her supervision that I am grateful for.’

Meyer-Weitz congratulated Nightingale saying: ‘It is an excellent study that was lauded by the examiners. Kelsey’s study contributes to a better understanding of the best evidence regarding interventions for caregivers of the elderly with dementia, a growing health burden globally and in South Africa.’

Commenting on her UKZN experience, Nightingale said ‘I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UKZN. Our University is not without its challenges, but the Howard College campus always makes me smile. The students are determined, hardworking, and friendly. There is always someone to talk to and I have made friends at UKZN who will always be part of my life. The staff in my department were wonderful to learn from. The lecturers are distinguished in their fields, yet still make time to sit with you one-on-one and create a holistic learning environment with more to offer than just a lecture.’ She also thanked her parents and husband for their support and encouragement.

Nightingale hopes to return to UKZN to undertake a PhD in the future. 

Words: Jennene Naidu
Photograph: Sethu Dlamini