Caregivers of Wounded, Ill, and Injured Service Members: Health and Wellbeing Assessment

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Name: Carla Dickinson

Rank: COL

Organization: Geneva Foundation

Performance Site: Brooke Army Medical Center

Year Published: 2018

Abstract Status:

Abstract

Wounded, ill, and injured Service Members (SM) are more likely in need of intensive or long-term care, often requiring family members to answer that call by becoming the SM’s primary caregiver. In a recent RAND Report (2014) commissioned by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, it was estimated that 20% of the 5.5 million Military Caregivers are caring for a post-9/11 SM or Veteran. Despite a body of literature on civilian caregivers and formal military caregivers, little is known regarding the short and long-term effects experienced by family caregivers assisting wounded, ill, and injured active duty SM, herein referred to as military caregivers.Military caregivers experience more health problems, face greater strains in family relationships, and have more workplace issues than non-caregivers (Ramchand et al., 2014). Ramchand and colleagues also reported a significantly higher prevalence of behavioral conditions among post-9/11 when compared to pre- 9/11 and civilian caregivers. The existing body of literature, mostly on civilian caregivers, sheds light on the health impact of caregiving and the strains associated with caregiving. However, as noted by the few studies conducted by Ramchand and colleagues, as well as researchers for this proposed study (Delgado/Peacock), there is a significant disaparity between military caregivers and civilian caregivers. These differences, mosty in age, roles, and the number of medical condition(s), may adversely affect and contribute to the development of chronic diseases in military caregivers. Delgado and colleagues conducted a pilot survey among military caregivers (N=467) and approximately 90% of respondents were caring for at least 3+ medical conditions/injuries. This same study showed a high prevalence of suicide ideation among the cohort of caregivers.The purpose of the proposed study is to examine the health, wellbeing, and social characteristics of military caregivers during the first four years in their caregiving role. We aim to: 1) Understand the health-related characteristics and experiences of military caregivers assisting wounded, ill, and injured active duty Service Members, 2) Understand the relationship between the health-related characteristics of military caregivers and their role, responsibilities, and social characteristics, and 3) Compare health-related outcomes between two cohorts of military caregivers caring for: i) active duty Service Members and ii) Veterans.Study Design: The proposed study is a sequential mixed-methods design (survey followed by interviews) to capture health-related information from a sample of military caregivers (18 years and older), assisting a wounded, ill, and injured active duty SM. Data collection will be achieved in two parts: 1) one-time web-based health assessment survey and 2) semi-structured individual interviews. The survey will be developed based on a pilot study conducted by Drs. Delgado and Peacock.Innovation and Impact: The proposed study is in collaboration with UT Health San Antonio scientists, currently conducting the second largest study on military caregivers health and wellbeing. It is also important to note that the pilot conducted by Drs. Delgado and Peacock is the first study that identified the prevalence of suicide ideation among caregivers in a sample of 467 military caregivers and will be identifying the one year incidence of suicide ideation in the same cohort. This proposed study will explore further the health of caregivers in the early stages of their journey, with the goal of gathering meaningful data for the development of prevention programs. This proposed study is anticipating having sufficient information to pursue further funding in the development and evaluation of a program specifically for military caregivers.