Building Better Caregivers

Primary Practice

Online psychoeducational training workshop


Building Better Caregiver (BBC) is a 6-week, internet-based workshop for 20 to 30 caregivers aimed at enhancing caregiving skills. It is offered on a dedicated website. The workshop does not require “real-time” attendance and uses discussion boards for social networking.

Each workshop is moderated by a pair of trained peer or professional facilitators with caregiving experience. Training includes taking the BBC workshop, attending four webinars, and following a detailed protocol. Facilitators remind participants to log on, model action planning and problem-solving, offer encouragement, and post to the bulletin boards. They also monitor the daily posts for safety and report problems.

Each week participants, using screen names, are asked to logon at least 3 times. Weekly activities include reading and interacting with the week’s lessons, and posting. There are six components to each workshop: the Learning Center (interactive, didactic material), the Discussion Center (4 bulletin boards: action planning, celebrations, difficult emotions and problem solving), My Tools (individualized tools, including problem behavior diaries and exercise logs), a Post Office (where participants communicate one on one), Resources (web links and documents), and Help (a tutorial and links to facilitators and project staff).

New content is added each week in the Learning Center, while previous content remained available. Links provided access to pages with information on specific optional topics, such as TBI, PTSD, and Alzheimer’s. The Learning Center also populated the Discussion Center with new discussion questions.

Target Population(s)

Caregivers of veterans


Building Better Caregivers is currently offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Caregivers for someone with dementia, memory problems, post-traumatic stress disorder, a serious brain injury, or any other serious injury or illness can join a workshop. To participate in the online VA Building Better Caregivers™ program, the caregiver or the care recipient must be enrolled in VA Healthcare. Over 5,000 referrals have been made, resulting in 2,654 caregivers being assigned to workshops; 75% of caregivers completed a workshop.


The workshop addresses specific needs of caregivers who care for someone with dementia, memory problems, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or any other serious injury or illness. The program aims to enhance caregiver skills and knowledge, reduce caregiver stress and depression, and increase their overall well-being.

Evidence of Outcomes

Emerging Practice/Model
Only one pilot study has been conducted on the program, without a control group. However, there is support for outcomes. The program is being widely implemented with a high level of high fidelity.

Lorig, Thompson-Gallagher, Traylor, Ritter, Laurent, Plant, & Hahn (2012) conducted a pilot study with 60 caregivers of veterans at three site using pre-test and 3-month follow-up surveys. Caregivers showed significant reductions in caregiver burden, depression, pain, and stress. Caregivers showed improvement in self-efficacy and two exercise measures that were conducted.

Additional Information

National Council on Aging. (2017). Building Better Caregivers™. Available at:


Dupke, N., Plant, K., & Kosteas, J. (2016). Supporting caregivers of veterans online: A partnership of the National Council on Aging and VA. Federal Practitioner, 33(1), 41-46.

Lorig, K., Thompson-Gallagher, D., Traylor, L., Ritter, P. L., Laurent, D. D., Plant, K., Hahn, T. J. (2012). Building better caregivers: A pilot online support workshop for family caregivers of cognitive impaired adults. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 423-437.