Savvy Caregiver

Primary Practice

Psycho-educational training program for Dementia Caregivers


Savvy Caregiver is a psycho-educational training program intended to train families and others about the unfamiliar role they face as caregivers of a relative or friend with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Savvy Caregiver is a 12-hour program that is delivered in 2-hour sessions over a 6-week period. Available materials for the program include a detailed trainer manual, a caregiver manual, a training videotape and a CD-ROM. The program focuses on helping caregivers think about their situation objectively and on providing them with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to manage stress and carry out the caregiving role effectively.

Target Population(s)

Caregivers of individuals with dementia and Alzheimer’s.


In-person training has been implemented by at least 4 Area Agencies on Aging and caregiver programs and in 25 local communities. An online version is also available.


The main objective is for caregivers to gain knowledge, skills, & outlook to become more effective in their caregiving role.

Evidence of Outcomes

Evidence-Based Practice
The program is widely implemented across the country by community-based organization. In general, the Savvy Caregiver program has been found to improve caregivers’ beliefs about caregiving, reactions to the behavioral symptoms of their care recipient, and their feelings of stress and burden.

A self-contained version of Savvy Caregiver was originally was field tested with 140 family caregivers in rural Minnesota, Denver, and Anchorage, Alaska, with positive responses from participants (Hepburn et al., 2003).

Hepburn and colleagues (2005) conducted a randomized trial with 215 dyads (caregivers and care receivers). The program contributed to strengthening caregivers’ ability to better understand and undertake their caregiving role. It reduced feelings of distress and improved caregiving attitude at 6 months.

Hepburn, Lewis, Tornatore, Sherman, & Bremer (2007) conducted a randomized control study to assess the ability to translate the original program developed and tested at the University of Minnesota to other community-based sites. A total of 52 caregivers completed both questionnaires (22 were in the wait-list control group). Experimental participants’ scores on measures of mastery and distress were significantly better than control participants’ scores at follow-up.

Kally and colleagues (2014) examined the impact of the program on English-speaking caregivers of Hispanic, Black/African American, and Asian/Pacific Islander descent. Findings showed more caregiver competence, reduced depression, greater tolerance for care recipients’ memory problems, better management of their overall situation, and improved perception of that situation 6 months and 12 months post-enrollment.

Griffiths, Whitney, Kovaleva, & Hepburn (2014) tested the preliminary efficacy of Tele-Savvy, an internet-based version of the in-person Savvy Caregiver Program for dementia caregivers. A convenience sample of 30 dementia caregivers from the Atlanta VA Medical Center enrolled in the Tele-Savvy clinical demonstration program (22 caregivers completed both pre- and post-test evaluations). While additional research is needed, results showed decreases in burden, anxiety, and depressive symptoms and marginally significant increases in caregiver competence.


Griffiths, P.C., Whitney, M.K., Kovaleva, M., & Hepburn, K. (2014). Development and implementation of Tele-Savvy for Dementia Caregivers: A Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Demonstration Project. Gerontologist, 56(1), 145–154.

Hepburn K.W., Tornatore J., Center B., & Ostwald S.W. (2001) Dementia family caregiver training: Affecting beliefs about caregiving and caregiver outcomes. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 49(4), 450-457.

Hepburn K.W., Lewis M., Sherman C.W., & Tornatore J. (2003) The Savvy Caregiver Program: Developing and testing a transportable dementia family caregiver training program. Gerontologist 43(6), 908-915.

Hepburn, K., Lewis, M., Narayan, S., Center, B., Tornatore, J., Lindstrom-Bremer K., & Kirk, L. (2005). Partners in caregiving: A psychoeducation program affecting dementia family caregivers’ distress and caregiving outlook. Clinical Gerontologist, 29, 53-69.

Hepburn, K., Lewis, M., Tornatore, J., Sherman, C. W., & Bremer, K. L. (2007). The Savvy Caregiver Program: The demonstrated effectiveness of a transportable dementia caregiver psychoeducation program. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 33, 30–36.

Kally, Z., Cote, S. D., Gonzalez, J., Villarruel, M., Cherry, D. L., Howland, S., Higgins, M., Connolly, L., & Hepburn, K. (2014). The Savvy Caregiver Program: Impact of an evidence-based intervention on the well-being of ethnically diverse caregivers. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 57, 681–693.

Ostwald S.K., Hepburn K.W., Caron W., Burns T., & Mantell R. (1999). Reducing caregiver burden: A randomized psychoeducational intervention for caregivers of persons with dementia. Gerontologist, 39(3), 299-309.