Evaluation of education and support initiatives for family caregivers




Hagen, Brad Francis

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As Canada’s population gradually ages, provinces such as British Columbia are beginning to explore initiatives to support family caregivers of the frail elderly. The focus of this dissertation is the evaluation of one such initiative; a program sponsored by the B.C. Ministry of Health (Continuing Care Division) called “Supporting Caregivers in B.C.” (SCBC). The SCBC program was created as a province-wide community development initiative to establish caregiver education and support groups in 17 communities throughout B.C. This dissertation research included nine research questions, which in turn were organized into four levels of evaluation questions: the individual caregiver level; the small group level; the community level; and the health care services level. These levels reflect the various levels at which the SCBC program was intended to have impacts, as well as the various empowering strategies the program aimed to employ. Due to the traditional over-reliance on quantitative methodologies used to evaluate caregiver groups, this dissertation research used a combination of research methodologies. These included participatory action research, qualitative evaluation research (focus group interviews) and quantitative survey research. Research participants included 76 family caregivers participating in the SCBC program, six SCBC caregiver support groups, and six SCBC community steering committees (which were responsible for the community development process in each community). The findings were varied, and related to both the outcomes and processes of the SCBC program. At the individual caregiver level, caregivers described a number of positive impacts the program had on them. In addition, participation in the program was associated with overall increases in the amount of social support caregivers received, as well as decreases in feelings of powerlessness and increases in feelings of powerfulness. At the small group level, caregiver groups provided information on what they needed for long-term sustainability, as well as describing what they felt were the essential beneficial aspects of their group process. At the community level, steering committees provided a profile of community characteristics affecting the SCBC community development process, and offered insights into the overall community development process. Finally, at the health care services level, although participation in the SCBC program was associated with increases in caregiver’s knowledge of community health services, it was not associated with changes in usage of those services, or changes in caregiver’s plans to place their care-receiver in a long-term care facility.



Chronically ill, Caregivers