Accelerating Adoption of Assistive Technology to Reduce Physical Strain among Family Caregivers of the Chronically Disabled Elderly Living at Home. Introduction

01/12/2012

Many family caregivers experience risk of physical strain, which often results from lifting and transferring, communication problems with a person with dementia, and homes that need repair and/or are not designed to support aging in place. However, the problem of caregiver physical strain has received little attention in family caregiver support efforts, with most programs focused on emotional support or respite. A two-stage study sought to identify ways to promote the more widespread use of AT/HM to mitigate physical strain among family caregivers of older adults with chronic conditions living at home.

The first stage (Part I and Appendix A) provided a systematic review of the research literature on the use of AT/HM to reduce physical strain associated with caregiving. The evidence suggested that a wide range of AT/HM could help prevent caregiver back strains and other injuries, enhance functioning and independence of older adults, and reduce the need for hands-on assistance and caregiver burden. Many of the programs found to be successful used a person-centered approach that included assessment of the environment and needs, identifying solutions, training in the use of AT/HM, addressing injuries, and assessing results, in many cases including occupational therapists.

This Part presents findings from the second stage of the study, in which we collected input from experts and stakeholders to identify strategies and recommendations for accelerating the use of AT/HM to reduce family caregiver physical strain. The project focused primarily on NFCSP as a dissemination venue because this large federal program is a source of direct support for many caregivers. Established in 2000 as part of the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act (Title IIIE) and administered by AoA, the NFCSP funds services to support family caregivers caring for people age 60 and older and people of any age with Alzheimer's disease or related dementia (AoA, 2011). The program also supports grandparent/relative caregivers of children and adults under age 60 with disabilities. Allowable services include information, assistance with accessing services, counseling, support groups, training, respite, and supplemental services, which include AT/HM, transportation, medical supplies, and other services.

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