Caring for the Family Caregiver

July 9, 2018 at 3:32 PM / by UC College of Nursing

older-couple-1200Tamilyn Bakas has dedicated more than 20 years of research to improving quality of life for family caregivers of stroke survivors. In 2004, she developed the Telephone Assessment and Skill-Building Kit (TASK), an eight-week educational program, to address caregivers’ needs. Now almost three years into its third version, Bakas is leveraging technology to make the program more accessible.

Tamilyn Bakas“A majority of stroke survivors end up being discharged to a home setting where the caregivers are completely on their own,” says Bakas, PhD, RN, FAAN, a professor and Jane E. Proctor Endowed Chair at UC College of Nursing. “There’s really little follow-up for these stroke survivors and their family caregivers.”

Bakas designed TASK to change the narrative. Through earlier versions, caregivers received a
resource guide in the mail with tips on problem solving, stress management and areas of concern. Over the next eight weeks, they learned how to use the guide during weekly phone calls with a
nurse. The latest version, TASK III, lets caregivers access the guide online and download an e-book
version through a new website, in addition to receiving a hard copy in the mail. Caregivers also can opt to talk with nurses via weekly video conference calls, instead of by phone.

Bakas hopes to officially implement the new and improved TASK III into practice within the next five
years. In the meantime, she’s gathering research evidence to show it reduces caregivers’ depressive symptoms and improves their overall health.

“Many times the caregivers are so focused on taking care of the patients that they don’t take care of themselves, and then they get sick or have their own health issues,” she says. “The family caregiver is a hidden patient in our health care system. We’re trying to bridge the gap from in-patient care to the home setting through the TASK III program.”

It’s all possible thanks to technological support from the nursing college’s Center for Academic
Technology and Educational Resources, as well as the expertise from partners at UC’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, UC’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training and UC’s Academic Health Center, Bakas says.

“It really takes teamwork to do a program such as this,” Dr. Bakas says. “We have a large interdisciplinary team. We’re blazing the trail together.”

By: Katie Coburn

This article appears in the summer 2018 edition of UC Nursing magazine.

Topics: magazine, research