QUERI – Quality Enhancement Research Initiative

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Caregiver Support (VA-CARES) Evaluation Initiative

Durham, NC

Overview:

The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (Public Law:111-163) enacted legislation to ensure training, services, and assistance for Veteran caregivers in need through two landmark programs: Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers, and Caregiver Support Services. These programs enhance support and services for family caregivers, including training and education. Uptake of the Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers Program has far surpassed expectations, with 26,000 applicants and at a cost of more than $300 million. Thus, return on investment is of immediate interest. The VA-CARES Evaluation Initiative will evaluate the impacts of these programs on Veterans and caregivers.

Objectives:

Evaluate the short-term impactsof the Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers and the Caregiver Support Services Programs by addressing the following aims:

  • Assess the impact of The Comprehensive Program on health and well-being of Veterans by examining health care encounters expected to be sensitive to caregiver support (potentially avoidable utilization).
  • Assess the impacts of The Comprehensive Program on the health and well-being of primary family caregivers.
  • Understand how caregivers use and value components of both the Comprehensive Program and the Caregiver Support Services Program.
  • Generate a detailed profile of the costs and services provided in both programs in order to assess the value of the program to Veterans, caregivers and VHA.

Results from this comprehensive evaluation will help inform the VA Caregiver Support Program (CSP) about its return on investment and will provide information on best practices for improving and better targeting its programs.

Methodology:

This evaluation will use a multiple and mixed-methods approach and rich data sources to provide a full evaluation of the VA Caregiver Support Program's (CSP) short-term impacts. Investigators will use VA medical records data to describe how the CSP has affected Veterans use of healthcare. Survey and CSP data will be assessed to describe caregivers participating in the CSP and how training, the stipend, and other benefits have affected caregivers' health and well-being, including perceived financial and emotional strain of caregivers and their families. Using mixed qualitative and quantitative methods, caregivers' perspectives on the helpfulness of the programs, challenges, and/or unmet needs will be identified. Finally, investigators will complement data on services offered by detailing the full delivery costs of the CSP—personnel, programming (e.g. stipend, insurance), as well as supporting costs.

Operations Partner:

The VA Caregiver Support Program (CSP), part of VA Care Management and Social Work Services, strives to help those who partner with VA to care for people who have 'borne the battle' through specific programs and a support line that offers emotional support and resources to family members and friends, who care for Veterans on a daily basis.

Principal Investigator: Courtney Van Houtven, PhD; contact at Courtney.VanHoutven@va.gov .