University of Pittsburgh
September 14, 2016

The Caregiver Project

Pitt’s Health Policy Institute and University Center for Social and Urban Research collaborates with RAND Health to make Southwestern Pennsylvania a laboratory for caregiving innovation
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh’s Health Policy Institute and the University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) announced today the formation of The Caregiver Project, an endeavor that aims to make Southwestern Pennsylvania a nationwide model for caregiving. The project will be guided by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s just-released landmark report, “Families Caring for an Aging America,” which was chaired by Pitt faculty member Richard Schulz.

The Caregiver Project will serve as a joint research hub for local, state, and national policy efforts to systematically identify barriers affecting caregivers and test hospital-based and community-based interventions intended to provide support and improve caregiver and care-recipient health outcomes. Over the next two years, Pitt’s Health Policy Institute and UCSUR will collaborate with RAND Health on Dr. Richard Schulzthe $1 million project, funded by the Stern Family Foundation and The Emily Kelly Roseburgh Memorial Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation.

“With over 200,000 residents aged 65 and older and an elderly population that is expected to grow by 21 percent by 2040, Western Pennsylvania is the ideal location for this project,” said Schulz, director of Pitt’s Gerontology Program, associate director of the University’s Institute on Aging, and professor of psychiatry. “A large and growing proportion of our population is providing unpaid—and often highly specialized—care to their aging loved ones. We need to advance research with a goal of helping caregivers obtain the resources and training needed to provide this care, without creating an undue burden on them.”

The National Academies’ “Families Caring for an Aging America” calls for a transformation in the policies and practices affecting the role of families in the support and care of older adults. Within the report, the committee urges government officials to create a National Family Caregiver Strategy that includes:

* Effective mechanisms to ensure that family caregivers are routinely identified in delivery of services to older adults with impairments;
* Medicare and Medicaid payment reform to motivate providers to engage family caregivers effectively; and
* Evaluation and adoption of federal policies that provide economic support to working caregivers.

“Like its previous seminal reports, I expect this National Academies report to change the way we look at caregiving in America and Dr. Everette Jamesencourage us to embrace the role of caregivers in the U.S. health system,” said Everette James, director of Pitt’s Health Policy Institute and associate vice chancellor for health policy and planning at Pitt’s schools of the health sciences. James, who served as the 25th Pennsylvania secretary of health, also said, “Our region is uniquely positioned to take the recommendations from this report and the state’s recently passed Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act—which will require hospitals to provide family caregivers with the instructions they need to care for their loved ones—and establish the model for the future of elderly caregiving.”

Through The Caregiver Project, the Health Policy Institute and RAND Corporation aims to:

* Identify the characteristics of caregivers of older adults that increase rates of certain outcomes, such as health resource utilization, personal costs, neglect, and impaired physical and mental health. Use this information to effectively target resources and policies to those most at risk.
* Survey family caregivers and care recipients in Western Pennsylvania to identify risk factors, needs, and knowledge about resources. Develop an assessment tool for identifying the needs of high-risk caregivers.
* Develop methods to integrate caregivers into existing health-insurance plans.
* Analyze the impact of managed long-term services and supports on caregiver satisfaction, health, and quality of life.Mr. Jeffrey Wasserman
* Develop a set of best practices for integrating caregivers into the discharge-planning process, as required by the Pennsylvania CARE Act.

“Everything learned in this project will be disseminated to policymakers, hospitals, insurance companies, long-term care providers, and, most importantly, caregivers and care recipients,” said Jeffrey Wasserman, vice president of the RAND Corporation and director of RAND Health. “Our overarching goal is to provide robust, evidence-based, data-driven recommendations and tools to help family caregivers provide needed support to their loved ones, without sacrificing their own health and well-being in the process.”