Innovate for Good: Mason Professor continues study of social media intervention for Chinese American caregivers with grant from NIH National Institute on Aging  


As Baby Boomer generation continues to age, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) is increasing. Today, more than six million Americans are living with dementia. Family caregivers of people living with ADRD experience high levels of psychosocial distress, and many of the caregivers themselves are older adults themselves. There is a lack of support for these family caregivers, and Chinese American caregivers face additional challenges in caregiving and self-care due to their immigrant and minority status. 

Professor in George Mason University's College of Public Health Y. Alicia Hong received a one-year $115,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health—National Institute of Aging Emory Roybal Center to expand her study of a social media intervention for Chinese American caregivers of people with dementia. The interprofessional team will test the Wellness Enhancement for Caregivers (WECARE) intervention program, an app-based personalized behavior intervention, to improve their confidence in caregiving and reduce social-emotional distress. 

“Caring for a family member or loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia (ADRD) is challenging and stressful, caregivers often experience negative health outcomes as a result. As American population becomes older and more diverse, more support is needed for family caregivers, but interventions for racial minority caregivers have been limited. WECARE is designed for Chinese American dementia caregivers to enhance their caregiving skills, reduce stress, and improve well-being,” said Hong, the principal investigator. 

With a 2021 seed grant from Virginia Center for Aging, Hong and her team first developed the WECARE protocol, which was published in JMIR Aging in June 2022. From there, the team piloted the protocol with 24 Chinese American dementia caregivers. The results from the pilot were published in JMIR Aging in April 2023.  

The pilot study indicated WECARE is feasible, acceptable, and effective as a culturally tailored intervention via a social media app. Study participants reported that using the app reduced depressive symptoms and caregivers’ burden. This study informs future research on digital interventions to support dementia caregivers, especially underserved minority caregivers. 

Using funding from the National Institute of Aging grant, the team will add more personalized features to WECARE and test it with a larger sample size of participants. Caregivers will learn to apply problem-solving strategies, which can boost self-efficacy and master of caregiving, leading to positive health outcomes for themselves and those they care for. The program will include personalized feedback to reinforce learning, social networking to enhance social support, and location-specific resources. 

The research team includes Pramita Bagchi in Mason’s Department of of Statistics and Jessica Lin in Mason’s Department of Computer Science. Additional consultants on the project include Van Ta Park at the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing, Hae-Ra Han at Johns Hopkins University, and Kate Lu from the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center.  

Innovate for Good is an ongoing series that examines how Mason faculty in the College of Public Health are harnessing technology to improve health outcomes. If you have stories to share as part of the Innovate for Good series, email Mary Cunningham at