Supporting caregivers, educating care providers

One in five American households provide care and support to an older parent, spouse, friend or neighbor who requires assistance with medication management, household chores or transportation for provider visits. That number is expected to grow to one in two by 2030.

The numbers are staggering and the burden can be crushing for those caring for an aging relative. The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing wants to support them and their well-being. Launched in April with a $5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Family Caregiving Institute at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis builds upon the foundation laid by the school’s current scholarship in the area of family caregiving, examining the effectiveness of programs and designing interventions to support them.

“Family caregivers provide more than 80 percent of long-term care to older adults, with a large percentage of their activities considered nursing tasks,” says Terri Harvath, executive associate dean and lead researcher for the institute. “Yet these dedicated individuals remain largely invisible in the health care system. We must develop systems to support them in the demands that impact their mental, physical and financial health, and threaten their quality of life.”

Last fall, AARP partnered with Harvath and a team of School of Nursing researchers to develop a series of tutorial videos for family caregivers as they manage complex nursing activities within their homes. Meanwhile, Associate Professor Janice Bell leads evaluation research of a novel person-centered, faith-based intervention to provide culturally sensitive advanced illness care guidance and resources. A diverse community, along with national and academic partners in practice, research and education, uniquely positions the School of Nursing as a leader in the caregiving field.

“The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is built on a foundation of advancing traditional hospital and systems-based solutions to meet the needs and demands for care in the community,” says Janet Corrigan, chief program officer of patient care with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “The Family Caregiving Institute will further that goal by including the family caregiver as an essential member of a person’s care team, training them to perform tasks traditionally performed by clinicians and providing tools to support the basic needs of caring for someone in the home.”

Another goal of the institute is to augment abilities of health care professionals to better partner with and support family caregivers. Leaders will work to develop tools and resources for practicing health professionals to equip them to be more effective in anticipating and meeting the needs of caregivers.

“This grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation represents a strong affirmation of the quality of our faculty, our scholarship and our commitment to promote health for family caregivers,” says Heather M. Young, founding dean. “It is a great opportunity to bring together existing researchers here at UC Davis, recruit new faculty, strengthen our partnerships and further enhance our work for the well-being of caregivers everywhere.”