Caring for an injured, disabled or ill family member can entail emotional, physical and financial strain. To advance research in this field, VA experts are developing and refining questionnaires and survey tools, as well as cross-cutting strategies that can be used to implement and test programs across a wide variety of caregiving situations. Several VA studies are looking at the impact of caregiver education and stress-reduction programs on caregiver and Veteran health and wellness. Studies focus both on the short- and long-term needs of caregivers, as many of these individuals will provide care for years or even decades.
Polytrauma caregiving needs—A Minneapolis team has surveyed 565 families in the "Family and Caregiver Experiences with Polytrauma" (FACES) study. The study is yielding information on the current and long term needs of family members and significant others caring for Veterans with polytrauma. The team also has developed the Family Care Map, a Web-based, user-friendly guide that lays out each stage of VA rehabilitation care and eases communication between families and VA health care professionals.
Online Alzheimer's help—Researchers from the Greater Los Angeles VA have created an online education and support program for caregivers of Veterans with Alzheimer's disease. It includes a website, streaming videos, online education and a discussion forum. Weekly online chat sessions involve caregivers and senior clinical staff, and monthly sessions include a psychiatrist. Previous studies suggest that such education and support may not only benefit caregivers but also lessen negative behaviors on the part of the care recipients with Alzheimer's.
Caregiving in heart disease, cancer—The Ann Arbor VA is studying how caregiver support can be enhanced for patients with
heart failure and patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. In both studies, patients choose a care partner, an adult who does not have to live with them. All patients will receive weekly automated phone calls and monitoring; some patients' care partners will receive symptom information and structured opportunities to provide support. The team hopes to discover the impacts on caregivers, as well as on patient health and well-being.