Rosalynn Carter Institute Teams Up with Duke University

Partnership Will Yield New Data and Improve Supports for Caregivers 

AMERICUS, GEORGIA – The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving (RCI) has teamed up with researchers at Duke University to better understand the needs of unpaid caregivers across America. Over the course of two years, the partnership – which is funded by Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation – will yield recommendations on how to better prepare and support caregivers, and measure outcomes from RCI programs.  

Initial joint research on the potential effect of caregiver coaching on childhood anxiety in military households – provided through RCI’s Operation Family Caregiver program – was published in an article in the Maternal and Child Health Journal. The research reinforces the potential broader benefits of caregiver coaching and support to the family. 

“While it’s the personal stories of caregivers that inspire us, it’s the data that informs our work and RCI is proud to offer research-driven, evidence-based programs that are proven to build resilience in caregivers,” said Dr. Jennifer Olsen, Executive Director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. “The opportunity to work with a trusted, respected research partner in Duke University is critical. These recent findings are positive, but it is clear we need to do more to understand the dynamics of caregiver stress across the entire family. We look forward to continuing our work together so that we can better support and empower even more caregivers and their families.” 

Notably, the joint research found that decreases in caregiver depressive symptoms and health complaints were proportionally associated with reduced child anxiety. In other words, when military parents are less stressed, their children are less stressed, too. 

“We are excited to work with RCI to provide evidenced-based results that support their incredibly important work,” said Dr. Megan Shepherd-Banigan, Assistant Professor in Duke University’s Department of Population Health Science and School of Medicine and Core Faculty in the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. “This partnership provides a unique opportunity to use our collaborative research to quickly translate findings to on-the-ground programs that support family caregivers—a vital resource for long-term care. Our goals are to understand the experiences of vulnerable family caregivers, determine which caregivers will benefit from RCI’s programs, and builds ways to communicate important results to our program implementers and caregivers.” 

In addition to this recent study, Duke researchers from the Department of Population Health Sciences continue to work with coaches in RCI’s Resources Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH) and Operation Family Caregiver programs, to help them understand the importance of measuring intervention outcomes, soliciting feedback, and more effectively deploying assessments.   

Researchers from the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy are also currently soliciting caregivers in the Gulf Coast region for a paid study on the needs of caregivers who have been impacted both by the COVID-19 pandemic and by a hurricane or flood, such as Hurricane Harvey. This project will help RCI better understand and respond to the needs of caregivers in emergency situations.  

“Better data means better programs, and more support for caregivers. We are always looking to reach more caregivers, in more ways, and in more places, and this is yet another example of how we can expand our reach through collaboration,” Dr. Olsen added.