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.
Home Safety Intervention for Alzheimer's Disease - Researchers at the Bedford VA recently completed a study that tested the effectiveness of a new educational intervention to improve caregiver competence to create a safer home environment–and to decrease risk and accidents to Veterans with dementia that live in the community. The Home Safety Toolkit has been so successful in improving caregiver strain and in-home patient safety that has been funded by the HSR&D QUERI program to develop procedures for implementing the program in other VA sites.
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.
Caregiving Support Evaluation Center - The QUERI Program, in partnership with the VHA Caregiver Support Program and Social Work Services, is establishing a Caregiving Support Evaluation Center. The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 established the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for VA Family Caregivers, which provides support for both the Veteran and the family caregiver, as well as a series of benefits including training and education for the caregiver. The Center will measure the effectiveness of program components of the Caregiving Program, and Veteran and Caregiver outcomes including well-being and quality of life. This will provide critical information needed to revise current caregiver programs or plan for new ones.