Health Services Research & Development

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Spotlight: VA Research Provides Insights, Support to Veterans' Caregivers

November 2011


For many Veterans, family members and friends provide the invaluable service of informal caregiving. Informal caregivers may assist Veterans in accessing healthcare, provide emotional and physical support, and may facilitate an aging and/or injured Veteran in remaining in their home rather than living in an institutional setting.

In providing such extraordinary care to Veterans, caregivers may become overburdened. To support and enhance the role of Veteran caregivers, VA Health Services Research and Development Service (HSR&D) researchers conduct important studies that examine caregivers own health, work, and home life—all factors that contribute to their well-being and, thus, the health and well-being of Veterans.

In recognition that November is National Caregivers Month, VA HSR&D offers this overview of research that supports and enhances the role of informal caregivers. Highlighted below are three recently published studies, and to the right, are links to additional information including videos, selected publications, and caregiver resources.

  • In April 2011, findings from the Partners in Dementia Care (PDC) study were published in The Gerontologist. The PDC intervention was developed for Veterans with dementia and their family caregivers, and has four key features: 1) formal partnerships between VA medical centers and Alzheimer's Association Chapters; 2) a multidimensional assessment and treatment approach; 3) ongoing monitoring and long-term relationships with families; and 4) a computerized information system to guide service delivery and fidelity monitoring. Findings show that, overall, the PDC intervention addresses the diverse needs of Veterans with dementia and their caregivers, including non-medical care issues such as understanding VA benefits, accessing community resources, and addressing caregiver strain.
  • In February 2011, the REACH-VA study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study offered education, support, and skills training to address caregiving risk areas of safety, social support, problem behaviors, depression, and health through 12 individual in-home and telephone sessions and 5 telephone support group sessions. Results showed that caregivers reported significantly decreased burden, depression, impact of depression on daily life, frustrations associated with caregiving, and number of troubling dementia-related behaviors.
  • In October 2010, HSR&D investigators published a review and synthesis of the research literature to help understand the impact of certain services for non-professional caregivers of individuals with dementia, especially looking at the effects on their mood, burden, and ability to manage problematic behavior. Overall, investigators found that the strongest evidence supports caregiver services that are designed after individual in-home assessments.