Mason CARES

Mason CARES

George Mason University Department of Social Work invites care partners caring for a loved one with dementia to participate in Mason CARES, a research study assessing the effect of an evidenced-based virtual education program on care partner stress-management. This program serves to reduce care partner stress/ burden and increase care partner well-being.

Mason CARES is funded by the RRF Foundation for Aging

Family care partners provide more than 80% of the daily care of older adults in the U.S. In 2019, more than 16.1 million unpaid family care partners of people with dementia assumed caregiving tasks because of declining cognitive and physical functioning among older adults (Alzheimer’s Association, n.d). Non-pharmacological, affordable interventions have evidence of effectiveness for families challenged with dementia in reducing care partner stress and increasing well-being.

Care partners in our research study will enroll in a virtual community of practice, receiving support from the George Mason University Mason CARES team through the 9-week evidence-based Stress-Busting Program (SBP) for Family Caregivers™, with a community of other care partners. We will collect information regarding stress and well-being before, during, and after the study ends. Upon completion of the SBP, the team will follow up with continued support for one month. Time commitment will be no more than 30 – 90 minutes per week depending on weekly activities. All participating care partners will receive:

  • Materials for the SBP including access to the recordings and equipment
  • Information regarding the Music & Memory® training program, a program that improves the quality of life of persons living with dementia by using personalized music to access long-held joyful memories and positive emotions, and needed equipment including:
    • An MP3 player, headphones, iTunes gift card, and assistance building a personalized playlist.
  • $50 for completing the study

For additional questions regarding the Mason CARES program, please see our FAQs below and/or contact the Mason CARES team: gerorsch@gmu.edu • 571-492-4188 • IRBNet number: 1790598-1

Interested in participating? Click here to begin the registration process.

The third and FINAL session begins the week of June 6th

Please note that registering for Mason CARES does not commit you to participate. Rather this registration is for the Mason CARES team to gauge interest and plan the logistics of the upcoming session.


Participant FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) for the Mason CARES Program

What is the Mason CARES program?

Mason CARES is a research study assessing the effect of an evidenced-based virtual education program – the Stress-Busting Program (SBP) for Family Caregivers™ – on care partner stress management. This study is targeted toward care partners caring for a loved one living with dementia at home.

Previous longitudinal studies assessing the effectiveness of nonpharmacological interventions for family care partners of people living with dementia indicated that educational programs and multicomponent interventions, like the SBP, had strong effects on reducing depression, and stress/burden.

How long is the Mason CARES program and how much does it cost?

Participating in the Mason CARES program is FREE.

Prior to starting the SBP, you will complete baseline and pretest assessment measures either on your own through RedCap, an online survey, and data management system, or have a Mason CARES team member go through the pretests with you. These measures will take approximately 1 hour to complete. You will complete these measures again upon finishing the program and again during a 2-month follow-up assessment.

The SBP itself is 9 weeks (about 2 months) and will be run through Zoom, an online video platform for communication. After the SBP we will continue touching base for 5-weeks (one week to complete the post-program survey and four weeks of weekly support via Zoom) until the final follow-up assessment immediately afterward.

When will the Mason CARES program begin and what day/time is the SBP training?

Recruitment for Mason CARES is ongoing. The first session will begin the week of January 17th. The second session will begin the week of March 28th. The third session is tentatively scheduled to begin the week of June 6th.

How much time per week is the Mason CARES program?

Time commitment will be no more than 30 – 90 minutes (about 1 and a half hours) per week depending on weekly activities. During the SBP, the duration of each weekly session is 90 minutes per week. Participants will choose which weekly meeting time to attend. The available SBP times are:

  • Tuesday afternoons from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm ET
  • Wednesday mornings from 9:30 am – 11:00 am ET (meeting day changed from Mondays for June cohort)
  • Wednesday evenings from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm ET

The sessions will be recorded so that if you miss a session, you can view the recording. Any breakout sessions would not be recorded. At the end of each Zoom session, you will receive a 12-item electronic poll consisting of questions assessing care partner burden. This survey is the only information that will be collected weekly and should take less than 3 minutes to complete. 

After the SBP sessions, we will have one week without a meeting, followed by four weeks where we will meet for a 30-minute session during your same SBP meeting time.

What will I receive by participating in Mason CARES?

All participating care partners will receive the materials for the SBP program free of charge and $50 for completing the study.

In addition, we will provide information regarding Music & Memory®, a program that improves the quality of life of persons living with dementia by using personalized music to access long-held joyful memories and positive emotions, and needed equipment including an MP3 player, headphones, iTunes gift card, and assistance building a personalized playlist.

Finally, you will receive the opportunity to connect with other care partners in your SBP group to share caregiving experiences in this comfortable and supportive environment

Why Music & Memory materials?

Studies of the Music & Memory® program have found that personalized music has the potential to awaken certain aspects of the personality of dementia patients, even individuals with moderate to advanced stages of dementia. This awakening may allow the non-verbal individual to communicate with their family and care partners, sing and experience joy and love, and even lessen agitation. These calmer moments can also indirectly improve the care partner’s quality of life.

What topics are covered during the Stress-Busting program?

The topics covered during this program include:

  • Group introductions, purpose, and expectations of the program
  • Stress: Effects on Mind, Body, and Spirit – Causes of stress, mind-body-spirit connections to stress
  • Caregiver Stress and Relaxation – Effects of stress, relaxation response, creating a relaxation environment
  • Facing Challenges: Understanding and managing difficult and challenging situations when caring for someone with dementia or a chronic illness
  • Grief, Loss, and Depression: Grieving process and losses related to caring for someone with dementia or a chronic illness
  • Coping with Stress: Discussion of changeable and unchangeable stressors, changing roles and relationships, use of coping strategies
  • Positive Thinking: Changing the way one can think (cognitive restructuring) and how to view situations in a more positive framework – Twisted thinking is discussed
  • Taking Care of Yourself: Healthy Living – Integrating the strategies learned in earlier sessions to help develop a healthier lifestyle – Emphasis on incorporating good nutrition and sleep habits, exercise, and hobbies into daily routines
  • Choosing a Path to Wellness: Final integration and application of the first 8 sessions with a focus on caregiver empowerment – Caregivers create a plan to do this and focus on healthy living – Discuss assertiveness skills