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2011 HSR&D National Meeting Abstract

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2011 National Meeting

3011 — Challenges of Recruiting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Caregivers in Research

Jensen AC (COE - Minneapolis), Bangerter A (COE - Minneapolis), Gravely A (COE - Minneapolis), Baines Simon A (COE - Minneapolis), Taylor BC (COE - Minneapolis and University of Minnesota), Clothier B (COE - Minneapolis), Griffin JM (COE - Minneapolis and University of Minnesota)

Objectives:
Despite growing interest in caregiver research in the VA, identifying caregivers of sick or injured veterans is not straightforward using VA administrative data. Our objectives are to: 1) describe methods used to find OEF/OIF service members’ caregivers; and, 2) report response patterns, highlighting challenges of recruiting them for research.

Methods:
Cross-sectional mailed survey of primary caregivers of OEF/OIF patients discharged from an inpatient VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center. The survey, using the Dillman method of multiple contact attempts, was conducted June-December, 2009. Caregiver recruitment data, including next-of-kin (NOK) information was extracted from medical record data (VISTA/ VISTAWEB). Data were collected on accurately identifying the study sample and recruitment success.

Results:
A NOK was listed for over 98% of eligible patients. 29% of NOKs had a new address since the patient’s PRC discharge, and another 20% had changed their NOK. Less than 2% of NOKs contacted did not identify themselves as caregivers and nominated someone else. Of 1,046 caregivers contacted, 51% responded by mail, 5% refused, and 3% responded verbally. Median survey return time was 22 days. Of responders, 35% responded within 15 days. Another 42% responded with either no or one additional contact with staff. 23% responded after at least two contacts. Of the caregivers who did not respond until after two contacts, nearly half (47%) provided care < 5 hours/week. Caregivers were most often reached via telephone in the evening. Patient characteristics of non-responding caregivers did not differ from patient characteristics of responding caregivers (i.e. cause and location of injury, discharge FIM score, or time since discharge). 39% of nonresponders, however, were never reached via telephone and 6% were never reached by mail or telephone.

Implications:
Caregiver data is not readily available from VA patient data; NOK data is not always current. Once reached, caregivers need little prompting to respond to research about their experiences.

Impacts:
Past VA caregiving research has focused on veterans from World War II and Vietnam eras, and designed to suit their demographics and behaviors. Administrative systems and protocols need to adapt to effectively engage caregivers of OEF/OIF era veterans in clinical care or research.


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