The University of Florida has partnered with Trualta, a Canadian company that develops educational programs to support family caregivers, to evaluate the program’s impact on caregiver confidence and wellness, as well as health outcomes.
The study is funded by a grant from Canada’s Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation through its Industry Innovation Partnership Program. The program pairs private companies with institutions that can offer a real-world setting for testing new products and services to address the needs of aging adults.
The new UF-Trualta study will follow caregivers of a person with dementia or mild cognitive impairment who is having surgery, to determine if the program can reduce caregiver burden and improve patient care. Potential participants will be identified through the Perioperative Cognitive and Anesthesia Network program, or PeCAN, a clinical service at UF Health Shands Hospital that works to improve brain health for presurgical patients at risk of cognitive problems.
PeCAN is directed by Catherine Price, Ph.D., an associate professor of clinical and health psychology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions with a joint appointment in the UF College of Medicine, and by Kristin Hamlet, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions’ department of clinical and health psychology.
“In our practice, we frequently see caregivers who are burdened,” Price said. “Caring for someone who is having cognitive issues and going through a surgical procedure can be very stressful. As clinicians, we want to be able to offer resources to support caregivers and help them feel more empowered.”
Trualta was established in 2017 to provide skills-based training and support for family caregivers. Its personalized web-based platform offers training on several topics, including behavioral symptom management, safety and injury prevention, pain and medication management, moving and transferring patients, nutrition and daily care. The program also offers links to local resources and education aimed at caregiver wellness.
“Plenty of education and training on these topics existed for professionals, but none of that content made it to the family members who needed it most,” said Trualta founder Jonathan Davis. “We take professional-level training and adapt it for the family caregiver audience, leading to improved confidence and reduced burden.”
UF and Trualta worked together to develop new training modules specific to caring for a loved one with cognitive difficulties who is having a surgical procedure.
Caregivers who agree to participate in the UF-Trualta study will use the training website for six months, choosing the modules that address their needs and interests. Participants will be asked to respond to surveys asking about their confidence with caregiving skills at the beginning, end and throughout the intervention.
As part of this research study, caregivers must agree to allow researchers to evaluate health records of the caregivers’ loved ones to determine if caregiving training may lower patients’ emergency department visits and hospital readmissions. In addition, researchers will survey caregivers to find out if the program improves patient and family satisfaction with their health care provider.
“Through this work I think we’re going to have the most robust dataset we’ve ever had linking engagement with our program to clinical outcomes,” Davis said. “We hope to determine if this training reduces caregiver burden by empowering caregivers and helping them feel more confident in their role managing care at home.”