Health Services Research & Development

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Miller KEM, Lindquist JH, Olsen MK, Smith V, Voils CI, Oddone EZ, Sperber NR, Shepherd-Banigan M, Wieland GD, Henius J, Kabat M, Van Houtven CH. Invisible partners in care: Snapshot of well-being among caregivers receiving comprehensive support from Veterans Affairs. Health science reports. 2019 Mar 1; 2(3):e112.
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Abstract: Background and aims: Since May 2011, over 23 000 caregivers of Veterans seriously injured on or after September 11, 2001 have enrolled in the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers (PCAFC). PCAFC provides caregivers training, a stipend, and access to health care. The aim of this study is to describe the characteristics of caregivers in PCAFC and examine associations between caregiver characteristics and caregiver well-being outcomes. Methods: We sent a web survey invitation to 10 000 PCAFC caregivers enrolled as of September 2015. Using linear and logistic regressions, we examine associations between PCAFC caregiver characteristics and caregiver outcomes: perceived financial strain, depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale [CESD-10]), perceived quality of Veteran's Veterans Health Administration (VHA) care, and self-reported caregiver health. Results: We had complete survey data for 899 respondents. Since becoming a caregiver, approximately 50% of respondents reported reducing or stopping work. Mean time spent providing care was 3.8 years (median 3, IQR 1-5) with an average of 4.9 weekdays (median 5, IQR 5-5) and 1.9 weekend days (median 2, IQR 2-2). The mean CESD-10 score was 8.2 (median 7, 4-12), at the cutoff for screening positive for depressive symptoms. A longer duration of caregiving was associated with having 0.08 increase in rating of financial strain (95% CI, 0.02-0.14). Caregiver rating of the Veteran's health status as "fair" or better was a strong predictor of better caregiver outcomes, ie, self-reported caregiver health. However, higher levels of education were associated with worse caregiver outcomes, ie, lower global satisfaction with VHA care, higher CESD-10 score, and higher rating of financial strain. Conclusions: Higher depressive symptoms among longer duration caregivers, coupled with high rates of reductions in hours worked, suggest interventions are needed to address the long-term emotional and financial needs of these caregivers of post-9/11 Veterans and identify subpopulations at risk for worse outcomes.