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Mandated Caregiver Training in the Veterans Health Administration: Caregiver Inquiry Informs National Dissemination.

Sperber NR, Boucher N, Hughes JM, Bruening R, Zullig LL, Decosimo K, Tucker M, Christensen LA, Allen KD, Hastings SN, Van Houtven CH. Mandated Caregiver Training in the Veterans Health Administration: Caregiver Inquiry Informs National Dissemination. The Gerontologist. 2023 Mar 21; 63(3):534-544.

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: A minority of family caregivers receive training, with implications for their own and their recipient's outcomes. Federal policy has supported the implementation and expansion of caregiver training and support. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed a national Caregiver Support Program and collaborated with VA health services researchers to explore caregivers' acceptance of an evidence-based training program in preparation for system-wide dissemination. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: This approach entailed a convergent mixed-methods design, which involved separate analyses of quantitative and qualitative data. Survey questions based on the Kirkpatrick model for training evaluation measured caregivers' reaction and learning, and interview questions elicited caregivers' reports about the value of the program for them. RESULTS: Most caregivers reported satisfaction with the training when responding to survey questions, although qualitative interviews revealed caveats suggesting need to hone the best timing and specific group of caregivers for maximal benefit. DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: Our findings indicate that understanding program-user fit may be particularly critical when implementing training for caregivers as they come to the program at different points along their caregiving journey, needing differing types and intensities of support. While a general program may appeal to policymakers aiming to scale caregiver training within a large, heterogeneous system, there may be shortcomings in terms of end-user acceptance and subsequent downstream outcomes such as reach and ultimately program effectiveness. Good, iterative communication flow between program developers and policymakers facilitates this understanding and, in turn, decisions about scaling.

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