Current research projects | The Family Caregiving Institute at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis

Current funded research projects at the institute

Here’s a sampling of some of the research projects in the Family Caregiving Institute.

Current grants

Outcomes for older cancer survivors and their caregivers
Some 64% of cancer survivors are older adults. Geriatric assessments can be an important part of their treatment planning, but could there be a better option for the survivors and their caregivers? Alex Fauer, an assistant professor in the Family Caregiving Institute, was awarded a Paul Calabresi Career Development Award for Clinical Oncology from the National Cancer Institute. With what is known as a K12 grant, Fauer’s study examines whether a combination of in-person and virtual meetings, coupled with coaching from community health workers, can significantly improve the quality of life for adults between the ages of 70 and 90 who have breast, colorectal and prostate cancer, as well as their caregivers. The coaching program is informed by Fauer’s previous research and specialized training in clinical trials in geriatric oncology.

Stress and heart health in underserved communities
Americans face a national mental health crisis whose seriousness will become evident in years to come. Stress is a significant risk factor of cardiovascular disease. Julie Bidwell, an assistant professor in the Family Caregiving Institute, serves as co-investigator on a $13 million initiative, funded by the American Heart Association, to study the impact of chronic stress on cardiovascular disease and health. Working with the new UC Davis PRECISE Center (Psychosocial stRessors and Exposomics on CV health In underServed multiEthnic populations in Northern California), Bidwell and team will extend ongoing work in underserved communities and will add to the understanding of their disparate risk and related cardiovascular outcomes.

Hospital-to-home transitions for older adult couples who are managing heart failure
Assistant Professor Julie Bidwell leads this study examining hospital-to-home transitions for persons with heart failure and their family care partners. Funded through a three-year, $450,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award, Bidwell uses intensive methods to examine how care dyads manage post-discharge symptoms on a daily basis. The results of the project will help us better understand how care relationship dynamics may support smoother transitions, such as fewer clinical events for the patient, less stressful experiences for the care partner, and better quality of life for both.

Malawi Healthy Hearts Program
Assistant Professor Julie Bidwell serves as co-investigator on this study that focuses on the shared experience and couples’ caregiving of HIV and cardiometabolic conditions. This is a sequential mixed methods project, with qualitative data collection completed and quantitative data collection well underway. The subcontract is with the University of California San Francisco as part of a National Institutes of Health award.

Novel advanced illness care program
Associate Dean for Research Janice Bell was awarded $600,000 from the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation Innovations in Care Program for a collaboration with faith-based organizations in Alameda County that address advanced illness care disparities through the Alameda County Care Alliance (ACCA) Advanced Illness Care Program.

Evaluation projects
Many caregiving programs are provided by service agencies, which lack the funding and expertise to conduct evidence-based research that determines the effectiveness of their interventions. The Institute’s program and policy evaluation unit, led by Heather M. Young and Janice Bell, brings decades of research expertise to the table. Through qualitative and quantitative methods, they assist agencies in understanding what in their organization works, what does not work and what the implications are for practice and policy.

Family Caregiving Institute pilot grants

The institute currently offers small grants of $5,000 to support research activities of faculty members and postdoctoral scholars.

Examining barriers and facilitators of adequate sleep among non-Hispanic Black adults
Principal investigator: Everlyne Ogugu
This pilot study focuses on understanding the factors influencing sleep patterns in middle-aged and older non-Hispanic Black adults. It aims to investigate the relationship between caregiving, work and other daily activities with sleep timing and duration in this population. Additionally, the study seeks to explore the experiences, facilitators and barriers related to obtaining sufficient sleep, especially among non-Hispanic Black adults engaged in caregiving roles. By identifying these factors, the research aims to develop strategies to promote better sleep health in this demographic group.

Posttraumatic growth within ICU survivors and their family caregivers
Principal investigator: Ji Won Shin
This pilot study investigates the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) survivors and their family caregivers. Using a mixed-methods approach, the study has two main objectives. The quantitative aspect focuses on understanding the trajectories of posttraumatic growth and psychological outcomes in ICU family care dyads during the post-ICU period. The second component delves into the perspectives of ICU family care dyads, exploring their experiences of posttraumatic growth. This research aims to shed light on the understudied area of posttraumatic growth in ICU survivors and their caregivers, offering valuable insights for future interventions and support services.

Understanding the role expectations and involvement of family/friend caregivers during acute hospitalization of older adults
Principal investigator: Orly Tonkikh
This pilot study explores the roles and expectations of family caregivers during older adults' hospitalization. It involves understanding involvement and role expectations from the viewpoints of hospitalized individuals, their accompanying caregivers and nurses. The research examines factors enabling or hindering caregiver involvement, comparing perspectives of patients, caregivers and health care professionals to identify commonalities and unique patterns.

Frailty and Physiological Caregiving Stress in Heart Failure Family Care Dyads: A Pilot Study
Principal investigator: Julie T. Bidwell
Frailty is a geriatric condition commonly defined as decreased physiologic reserves and increased vulnerability to stressors. This pilot study explores patient and caregiver frailty and caregiver stress in a diverse group of older adult heart failure care dyads (heart failure patients and their partners/spouses). The overall goal is to characterize frailty within the dyad and its relationship to physiologic caregiving stress, with particular focus on caregivers that may be at higher risk (women and African Americans).

Acceptability and Feasibility of a Tailored Video for Recruitment of African American and Black Dementia Caregivers
Principal investigator: Fawn Cothran
This study examines the acceptability and feasibility of a personalized video regarding caregiver stress for recruitment of African American and Black dementia family caregivers. The study seeks to determine the acceptability of a personalized video regarding caregiver stress and test the feasibility of a personalized video for recruitment of African American dementia family caregivers. 

A Contextual Approach to Assessing Caregiver Trajectory and Outcomes
Principal investigator: Oanh Meyer
The goal of this project is to enroll caregivers of those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia from our UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center cohort as well as caregivers from the community. Using life course models and contextual approaches, researchers examined the effect of early life adversity and sociocultural factors such as familism, and their role on caregiver health and mental health.

Impacts of Social Isolation on Older Persons and their Caregivers During COVID-19
Principal investigator: Tina Kilaberia
This study explores how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the lives of older persons and their caregivers. Researchers seek to understand especially the experiences related to social support, health care, loneliness and technology use. 

Caregiving as Ethical Work: Understanding how Caregivers Meet the Ethical and Moral Challenges caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic
Principal investigator: Mark Fedyk
This project examines caregiver's descriptions of the experience of providing care, paying particular attention to the moral stress and ethical dilemmas that caregiving frequently involves.  It does this by closely examining a database consisting of over 10,000 posts collected from public internet forums dedicated to the needs of caregivers. By closely examining the stories about ethical dilemmas in the database, as well as by carefully paying attention to trends in posts made both before and during the pandemic, the study hopes to shed light on specific and highly granular impacts that the pandemic has had on caregivers. Researchers seek to understand the creative solutions that caregivers developed to deal with the dilemmas of caregiving.

Family Caregiving Research Repository

Pat Archbold and Barbara Stewart are nationally recognized experts in assessing caregiver skills and preparedness. Archbold is credited with offering the first conceptual model of family caregiving in research in 1980. Along with Stewart, she introduced the concept of preparedness in 1988. Their fundamental work in caregiving — developed while they were faculty at Oregon Health and Science University — now encompasses a massive suite of measurement and survey tools for family caregiving research. The Family Caregiving Institute serves as the repository of those tools. This allows the institute aggregate research across the country and gain new knowledge from others’ rigorous inquiries.