Faculty in the Family Caregiving Institute at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis focus on four key projects in support of the institute’s education mission.

Developed in conjunction with national and international experts in family caregiving, these competencies and domains outline the knowledge and ability necessary for health care professionals to work with family caregivers and the areas needed to assess family caregivers’ readiness to assume the role.

This undertaking directly responds to the California Task Force on Family Caregiving. The final report issued in July 2018 recommends that caregivers be equipped with easily accessible information, education, and training that is specific to their situation, and is provided in culturally competent and relevant ways. It also recommends that family caregivers be integrated into hospital processes.

“This shifts the current paradigm of how providers interact with caregivers. Our work in education will reframe the way we think about the role family caregivers play, giving voice to people who have been invisible in the health care system for a long time,” explains Kathryn Sexson, assistant clinical professor and lead educator of the institute. “Our ability to combine research and education – transforming that research into practice through education as its happening – places us in a very different position than other institutions.”

Researchers at the institute do not provide direct services to family caregivers; rather, they focus their efforts to look at the bigger picture of what caregivers need to know in order to prepare them for their role and what resources are available or need to be developed. In addition, this work educates and broadens the perspective of health care providers on how to integrate caregivers into the care process throughout the experience between hospital and home or community settings.

“Ultimately, our goal is to reduce the burden for family caregivers. We can impact more family caregivers educating health care professionals than we could ever do working one-on-one with caregivers,” Sexson says. “The knowledge of health care leaders, researchers and clinicians will then inform those agencies that are working individually with families day in and day out.”

After gathering and refining input from the literature and experts in family caregiving, the Family Caregiving Institute team identified four competencies for health care professionals:

  • Nature of family caregiving
  • Family caregiving identification and assessment
  • Provision of family-centered care
  • Context of family caregiving

They identified nine domains in which to assess the preparedness of family caregivers:

  • Household tasks
  • Personal care
  • Mobility
  • Health monitoring
  • Emotional and social support
  • Care coordination
  • Nursing and medical tasks
  • Shared decision making
  • Caregiver self-care

The next step is the development of a series of learning modules whereby providers and formal caregivers could complete the series to earn a certification in caregiving.

  • Health Care Professional Learning Modules: Key concepts in family caregiving are developed for health care professionals in learning modules. The initial modules focus on teaching and learning complex nursing tasks with a focus on caregiver assessment, the nuances of teaching older adults or individuals in high-stress situations and shared decision making.
  • Achieving Care Excellence – Caregiving (ACE-C) Simulation Modules: The interprofessional family caregiving competencies and family caregiver domains of preparedness are used to guide module development. The John A. Hartford Foundation, AARP, National League for Nursing (NLN) and UC Davis partner together on this project where institute educators serve as subject matter experts.

Based on the interprofessional family caregiving competencies, three newly developed, four-credit courses address the complex and dynamic nature of caregiving, family-centered communication and decision making, as well as patient- and family-centered care-plan development.

This certificate program, set to pilot in fall 2019 with master’s-degree leadership and doctoral students at the School of Nursing, consists of three academic courses (12 credits) developed by UC Davis faculty:

  • Theoretical foundations and application
  • Communications
  • Assessment and evidence-based interventions

“Our hope is to equip and educate health care professionals to integrate the family into the health care team, so the caregivers become active members of the team at the beginning of the provider-patient relationship,” Sexson says. “So that if the patient needs assistance, then the health care team and the family caregiver can come together immediately to support if them. Likewise, we want members of the care team to recognize when the caregiver needs support as well and bring the team together to aid.”

In a partnership that first formed in 2015, faculty at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis collaborate with colleagues at AARP to empower family caregivers with the knowledge and skills needed to care for a loved one at home with the creation of a series of tutorial videos

“Right now in this country, families provide the bulk of the care to our aging population in the home and those family members need help,” says Terri Harvath, institute director and associate dean for academics. “Nurses are well poised to provide some of the resources and teaching that can better prepare family caregivers to take on this role.”

As of October 2018, the library of resources for family caregivers includes more than 20 videos available in two languages on three topics—medication management, mobility challenges and wound care. Additional videos on incontinence and special diets are expected in early 2019.

Institute researchers Fawn Cothran and Carolina Apesoa-Varano serve as co-leads of the UC Davis Alzheimer Disease Center outreach recruitment core. Additionally, the institute provides speakers as requested to address caregivers about behavioral management strategies and when to consider the transition to a higher level of care.