Exploring the Unmet Needs of Family Caregivers using a New Assessment Tool

Julia T. Boyle, Psy.D.

VA Boston Healthcare System
Exploring the Unmet Needs of Family Caregivers using a New Assessment Tool

Scientific Abstract

Background: Family caregivers frequently report having unmet care needs related to the care of their loved one. Some family caregivers engage outside services to help them provide care; however, it is unclear what factors determine service use, and current measures of unmet need do not ask families to identify reasons for not using services. This study aimed to explore the applicability and feasibility of newly developed assessment of caregiver need.

Methods: We asked a sample of family caregivers N = 13 (62% male), Mage = 67.58, in the VA Boston Healthcare System to complete a measure of unmet needs to better understand the services and supports needed by these caregivers.

Results: Of the 24 items listed on the Caregiver Needs Assessment, caregivers endorsed 22 unmet needs; most commonly: caregiver support (e.g. groups, telephone intervention), support for a healthier lifestyle for themselves, and assistance increasing the care recipient’s acceptance of services. Transportation, benefits, activities, and PT/OT for the care recipient were among the next most commonly reported needs. Male caregivers (n = 8, age = 70.13) reported less needs on average than female caregivers (n = 5, age = 62.50; 1 missing); however, notably male caregivers reported greater need in four areas: need for counseling, support for a healthy lifestyle, assistance with the care recipient accepting services, and meals for the care recipient.

Overall, the main reasons for caregivers not using services were availability (unsure how to get it) and acceptability (care recipient refuses).

Conclusion: Caregivers in this sample reported a wide range unmet needs, which were similar among male and female caregivers. Male caregivers reported slightly greater need in a few areas. Overall, caregivers reported needing more information about available services and support with acceptance of services. The assessment appeared applicable to the caregiving experience and identifying barriers to service use.

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research Areas


Julia T. Boyle, Psy.D., Kelly A. O’Malley, Ph.D.